Living the Dream – 64. Camino IV Part II

Camino IV Part II is brought to you by the magic of the internet. This post, and every post this week, has published while I am walking in Northern Spain.

Last Walking Day

Today, Friday, is our last walking day on this trip. If everything has gone to plan, then we awoke this morning in Herreriás, our last stop in the Province of Castille y Léon. Dinner was at 2,100 feet above sea-level. Desayuno Dos (Breakfast 2, taken after a couple of hours walking) will be at close to 4,000 ft above sea-level. Not our highest ascent on this trip, but probably the steepest climb.

As we lean into the hill and trudge up, we will cross into Galicia, the last province of Spain on the Camino. Galicia is fertile and verdant. Put another way, it is the wettest place in Europe. Must be a reasonable chance it will rain on us. Breakfast 2 will be taken at O’Cebreiro, from where Triacastela, our end point for this year, is a gentle 4 or 5 hours away.

Mechanised Again

At Triacastela, we’ll get a bus or a cab to Sarria, where we have a hotel booked. Sarria has direct transport links to Santiago, from whence we fly home. So, getting there at the end of Friday makes for a much less stressful Saturday, when we can get a morning train to Santiago and spend a couple of hours in the city before heading to the airport.

Santiago de Compostella

I suspect those few hours in Santiago will be odd. All the other pilgrims will be elated – they have finished. Stu and I will undoubtedly feel slightly fraudulent, being 83 miles short. Still, I’m sure we will identify where we might have our celebratory dinner next year.

Camino V

2020, we will resume our pilgrimage from Triacastela, and complete the 500 miles from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela.

The days after a camino are a bit sad. I feel tired, and in my case, want sleep and carbohydrates in equal part. The mind feels refreshed from the meditative nature of the endeavour but simultaneously shocked by the re-immersion into the modern world. I’m glad to be back at home with Margaret and Spice, but a pert of me  A part of me wants to go to bed early, rise early, and lace up my shoes for another long walk.

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Living the Dream – 63. Camino IV

Camino IV begins the day after this post publishes. I’m off to Northern Spain again.

Route

Over six days, I will walk 109.5 miles (176.2 Km). This is Camino IV of V, and next year we have 83 miles left of the 500 mile pilgrimage that we began in Southern France at St Jean Pied de Port.

I wrote last week about the complexity of getting to this year’s start point, but once there, things get really simple, really fast.

Simplicity

The Camino Francés is marked out by scallop shells and yellow arrows. Sometimes on the street, some times on signs or even just painted onto trees. It’s perfectly possible to complete the camino without ever looking at a map. You just follow the yellow arrows.

Pilgrims stay in Albergués (hostels) or hotels. There are thousands of them along the route. Many pilgrims walk until they are tired, stop and rest for the night. Others, all buy the same guide book, and replicate the walks and stops made in the book (this leads to bottlenecks in the featured stops and empty beds in all the other possiblities). Now, as seasoned pilgrims, we know our distances and we pre-book rooms, off the featured list.

Most of Saturday will be spent getting to our hotel. Stu, my friend, and I will have supper and catch up over too much wine. The night will end early though, the threat of a 20 mile walk in the morning sending us to bed. On Sunday we rise, pack leave the hotel and follow the yellow arrows.

Daily Routine

If things go as they usually do, then Sunday will work as follows.

Leave the hotel around 7am after a coffee and croissant. We will walk from the centre of the city to the outskirts as the sun rises. It’s early Sunday in Spain, there will be nobody but pilgrims up and about. Around 9, we will reach La Virgen del Camino (Pop. 3,100) where Stu will have Desayuno Dos (Breakfast #2). We will strike on, having naturally moved from warm-up speed to cruising-speed. 3 hours or so will take us to Villadangos del Paramo. This is a “stop” in the most popular guidebook, so many pilgrims will be rushing here to try to get a bed in the “best” hostel. We will stop for lunch – probably a sandwich and a cold beer with our shoes and socks off.

Rested, we will set off for a destination, Hospital de Orbigo, which is another couple of hours up the road. All things being equal, we will arrive at our hotel at 3, 4 o’clock. We’ll check in, shower, change and get our dirty clothes washed and dried (or hung up). Then, to a bar with a decent terrace, phone home, write our journals and reflect on a good day. We’ll find dinner, laugh and joke with some fellow pilgrims and then hit the sack.

The next five days will follow the same pattern. Simple.

Packing

Now that we have settled into this routine, packing is easy for Camino IV. In the morning, I am wearing boxers, socks, shorts and a t shirt. I have a warm layer and a waterproof if I need them. In my bag, there’s another set of boxers and socks, some lightweight jogging pants, and another t shirt. Flip flops, some wash kit, first aid kit, charging leads for watch and phone, journal kit and guide book. That’s pretty much it.

The joy of the camino is its simplicity.

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Living the Dream -62. Connectivity

Broadband

I quickly took connectivity for granted. I was frustrated how long it took to get fibre internet in our village, seventy five miles from London. However, once it arrived; bliss.

Airports

Southampton, Bournemouth, Heathrow and Gatwick are all less than ninety minutes drive from that same village. Four more airports could easily be reached in an additional half an hour. Traffic was a pain, but hey, that’s life.

Internet connectivity at the mountain hideaway is not too bad. We have two lines fused together (apparently), and usually, things work. Now and again the TV buffers or the connection drops, but hey, that’s life. Right?

Camino

8 days from now, I’m off to Spain to walk a section of theCamino de Santiago, the same as I have for the last three years. This year, we’re starting from Léon, which is a bit awkwardly placed for flights.

My friend, conveniently also named Stu, is coming from Dublin.

He is getting a flight at 0615 BST which will arrive at Madrid 0850 BST. It’s then a 3.5 hour bus ride to Léon. Poor chap.

Journey

Now. My little journey.

I’m getting a flight at 0310 BST, which means leaving the house at 0010. The flight is to Athens. At 0710 BST, I’m getting another flight, arriving at Madrid at 1100 BST. Then the joys of a 3.5 hour bus.

As it’s a Saturday, the bus leaves at 14:45, so we’ll be arriving in Léon at 18:15. That’s an 18 hour trip.

All being well, we will walk about 19 miles a day for 6 days and end up in Sarria. I’m willing to wager that supper will be long, and liquid.

On Saturday, we will catch a train to Santiago. (2 and a half hours.) Stu’s flight is at 1700. He’ll be at home in time for dinner with his family.

My flight is at 1705. To Frankfurt. I’m due to land in Cyprus at 0215 on Sunday morning. I’ll creep into the kitchen about 0430.

Suddenly, I miss connectivity.

Aluminium tubes apart, the camino is a fantastic experience and one that I recommend to everybody. I’ll happily pay a small fortune to hang about in airports to get there. 🙂

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Living the Dream -61. Aluminium Tubes

I came home in an aluminium tube emblazoned with the bright orange logos of EasyJet. It is a no-frills airline. In my recent experience, flag carrier airlines are now no frills airlines, but with much higher prices. I stubbornly carried on using British Airways, until even I could no longer claim that the flight experience was appreciably better and worth the money.

Change

Overall, no-frills aluminium tubes have had a massive impact on the world. More travel is accessible to more people, which is good, until you start thinking about carbon emissions and the like. However, for me, the biggest impact has been on expectations. As a younger man, airline travel was exotic and exciting. Liveried personnel served me “free” drinks and called me “Sir”. Now, air travel is on an aluminium tube with wings. A very full bus. In terms of service, I expect nothing and usually get less than that. I eat and drink before I fly, board, sit and put on headphones.

Expectations

In the past, pre-flight, I fervently hoped for an empty seat next to me. I wondered what new release would be on the in-flight entertainment system. Previously, I planned for a G&T and a glass of wine. I made judgments on the airline based upon the service that I received. Now? I expect not to eat or drink anything, although I might buy a cup of tea. I’m certain that there will be sharp-elbowed individual in the middle seat, next to me. There will be one bathroom for the entire passenger load and the whole experience will inspire novels written from the point of view of a farm animal going to slaughter.

No crash gets 9 out of 10, no crash and being on time-ish gets 10.

Stress

All this has made the experience of flying much worse, but the stress much less. As my expectation has changed, there is less unexpected. I used to be annoyed when the airport and airline attempted to herd me from wait to wait. Now, I shrug. I was mystified how airlines could bring me food at 12, but not offer me wine to accompany it until 12:30. Now, I expect no food and no drink.

Follow up on last week.

1. Car Hire. I paid £99 for the manual, and asked about upgrading to an automatic. An additional £140. I demurred, and by the time the trip finished, I was mostly remembering to change gears.
2. Weather. Mostly moist.
3. People. Exhausting, as expected.

Overall, it was a good trip both professionally and personally.

I really could do without the cold that I picked up, presumably on one of the aluminium tubes.

At the end of the day, there’s a lot to be said for staying home.

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Living the Dream -60. A glimpse of England

As this post publishes, I’ll have had a glimpse of England for five days. I’ll be spending the day in Southern England, before flying home on Saturday.

As I write this, in Cyprus, it’s 30+ degrees, with the sun cracking the flags. On Sunday night, there will be rain on my hotel window, which will be firmly closed against the chilly night air. I’m curious how I’ll feel.

Itinerary

The trip is part business, part pleasure. I’m starting in the north of England, doing anti-money laundering work, before heading down to Nero’s Notes HQ and visiting my Mum. Nero’s is in a new office, that I have never seen, so I’m looking forward to that. As ever, I hope to squeeze in a round of golf back at my previous club with old friends.

Packing

What to pack? I’m challenged. Business wear? Layers? Problems that I do not face here. Trying to account for the vagaries of English weather, for a week, with only a carry-on is a forgotten art for me.

Worries

Assuming that I manage to pack and board the flight, what am I worried about?

1. Driving. I’ve hired a manual car, despite having driven an automatic for years. I must have been being thrifty when I booked it. Transmissions apart, I’m nervous of driving in the rain, in the traffic. I haven’t forgotten the nightmare of UK travel. After a five hour flight, I have a four hour drive to a place I have never been. Joy.
2. People. On trips, I find myself in constant demand. From first thing in the morning, until I head for bed, I’m with other people. That’s great, but its exhausting. I miss “quiet time”. When did I get so old?
3. Home. While I’m swanning about England, Margaret will be juggling working and looking after Spice, on her own. Doubtless me being around will mean the place stays much cleaner, but where I enjoy solitude, Mags thrives in company.

Difference

I daresay that all will be well, and I may even find cooler temperatures and a bit of rain refreshing.

I’m looking forward to seeing everybody, and to, “difference”. They say that a change is as good as a rest, so I’m looking forward to a glimpse of England.

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Living the Dream – 59. Sabbatical

“A sabbatical. We’ll try it for nine months.”

That was the original agreement. Margaret’s employer had a policy allowing her to take up to 9 months as a career break. Putting an end date on our adventure made it much easier for Margaret to acquiesce.

Sabbatical

Then, her employer made her redundant, and the artificial time limit was no longer there. Nevertheless, we both understood that we were burning no bridges and that the move to Cyprus was not definitive. It was a sabbatical.

Evolution

Margaret’s position then became, “we’ll stay awhile, until we can sell the house.” More recently, it has become, “we won’t grow old here. We won’t stay for ever.” Subtle changes; evolution not revolution, as it were. My position, much to many people’s frustration, is, and always was, “I dunno. Let’s see.”

In theory, we would have headed home last month, before the summer really hit. I’m delighted that we’re still here. Particularly after the start that we had, when I genuinely feared that we would choose to return to England sooner even than nine months.

Signals

We’re discussing whether to take the next Greek language course in the autumn and we have made plans for New Year. There has been no specific discussion, we’ve simply moved on.

Is this home now?

Posed as a simple question, the answer is more complex. What is home?

Home

Increasingly, soppy though it may sound, home, for me, is where Margaret is. I’m happy here, I was happy in England. In the Members posts of this site, I am writing about my time in Central Europe. I was happy there too.

Statistically, two thirds of British people who retire abroad, return to the UK. Grandchildren and health care being the two elements most often cited as reasons to return.

Mags and I have no kids and touch wood, are in good health for the time being. Part of the rationale of moving here was to do so while relatively young, and enjoy a new life.

The Future

Might we move back to the UK? Or move to another “foreign” country? Might we stay here?

Yes, to all of the above.

We are lucky enough to be able to keep our options open, and that’s what we will do.

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Living the Dream – 58. Summer Living

Summer living is what we came to Cyprus for. Almost endless sunshine, blue skies and warm weather.

Heat

Having lived here before, I had warned Mags that the height of summer can be uncomfortable. Therefore, we both awaited July and August with a degree of trepidation. The season, has thus far, been mild. There have been some blazing hot, humid days, but not as many as we might expect.

When the heat is on, we have adapted our routines. We rise early, and retire late. We either work or golf in the morning and then rest in the heat of the afternoon. That’s fine, until I look at the impact on my productivity.

Golf

We return from the course between 2 and 3 in the afternoon. I restock the water bottles, get the washing machine working and then collapse, either on a chair or in bed. By the time that I’m functioning again, its dinner and/or social time.

I have found myself playing “social” golf, three times a week – with some competitions on top. That means three or four days per seven, I’m not getting to my businesses or my other projects. That’s too much. I either have to find a way for golf not to wipe out an entire day, or play less. Dang it.

Working

If I am not off to the golf course, then after a swim, I get down to the office bright and early to get some work done. The mornings are highly productive. My energy levels have always been best at the start of the day, and the availability of a home-office means that I can get going very quickly and go straight through to around 1pm. I have another swim, a bite to eat and then a nap.

Epiphany

Writing this post, my inner-voice (Siegfried) has been screaming, “play golf in the afternoon, muppet!” Siegfried has a point.

Most of our playing partners are retired, and play in the mornings. Afternoon golf will likely be just the two of us – from a buggy, but even if I reclaimed one weekday morning, that’s a 50% increase of prime productivity time.

There – even if nobody reads this post, the writing of it has helped me make an improvement to summer living.

Appetite

A welcome impact of the heat is that I am rarely hungry during daylight hours. That’s good for calorie control. Unfortunately, there are few pleasures better than a cold beer on a warm night, and that is definitely not good for calorie control!

Conclusion

Summer living is awesome. I know that any challenges are ones that I am very lucky to have – and now, if I start moving some golf into the afternoon, then I can claim a huge positive impact of writing this blog.

Thank you.

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Living the Dream. 57. Hydration

Hydration eh? How’s that for a snappy title? If you live in a hot climate, hydration takes on an importance that comes as a bit of a surprise.

Golf

I play golf. There are three common ways of getting yourself around a golf course. The first is to rent a golf buggy. A natty little two seater vehicle upon which you buzz from shot to shot, saving yourself the majority of walking about that golf can entail. The second is to use an electric trolley. This takes the strain of your golf bag and clubs, allowing you to walk unencumbered. The third, and oldest method, is to sling your clubs onto your back and walk.

Part of the reason that I play is for exercise, so I prefer the third method. It’s tiring, but I’m happy with that.

Heat

However, in very hot weather, it becomes harder. Heat, humidity, and walking makes for a lot of sweating. Consequently, I need to take on a lot of water. This has two drawbacks. One, I have to carry this water, and frankly, water is heavy. Two, a cycle begins. I sweat more, and drink more. As I continue to sweat, the water carries with it minerals and the like. Apparently, these minerals and salts are vital in allowing your body to rehydrate. So, if you’ve sweated them out, you’re in trouble. Regardless of how much water you take on, you will become dehydrated. Your decision-making process will suffer, you may start hallucinating and even pass out. None of those things is good for your golf, nor indeed your health.

Hydration

Sensible people advise me to hire a buggy during the summer months, but I would rue the lack of walking. I tried a couple of times this week, but I miss the exercise. Therefore, I have rehydration tablets which I drop into some of my water bottles. These contain the mineral and salts that allow my body to make use of the water.

This seems to do the trick – although many people still shake their heads at the sight of me striding to the first tee, golf bag on my back. Of course, that might be my brightly coloured golf-knickers…

Incidentally, a hydration tablet is a fabulous hangover cure…#lifehack

Living the Dream – 56. Kyproulla

Kyproulla is my new car. When I say new, she is actually 15 years old.

Kyproulla is a small Japanese hatchback with a tiny engine and a lovely personality. She has taken us into town for a gig (more on that later), and along the highway to the golf course. Economical and a dream to park, we’re off to a good start. Of course, that could all change in a smokey, breaking down heartbeat.

Why a second car?

The mountain hideaway is isolated. Nothing is within walking distance. Therefore, if one of us is playing golf, then the other is either playing too, or staying in the house. That’s doable, but Margaret is improving rapidly as a golfer and sometimes (always) would like to play with people other than me.

Additionally, Margaret has taken employment. She helps out at a kitchen store in the mall. Already, a week in and her Greek is accelerating away from mine. So, several times a week, she takes the car to work.

I feel that Kyproulla would enjoy a little customisation, so I’m seeking an evil eye and some worry beads to hang from the rearview mirror. She is helping me find my inner Cypriot.

Gigging

UB40. They were great. Everything was incredibly well-organised, the weather was kind and the band were brilliant. We were both nervous that the event would be hot, chaotic and unpleasant, and so were surprised and delighted. A cracking time was had by all.

Last night, she took us to Il Divo, the “Popera quartet”. Mags and I are both big fans so were really looking forward to it.

Meh.

The danger of expectations. UB40, we expected little, and they delighted us. Il Divo, we expected a lot and they disappointed us.

They were OK. Personally, I expected better voices. Between songs, the four attempt a little Rat Pack-esque banter. Cringe!

Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed the evening, and will continue to listen to the music – perhaps with a renewed appreciation for the production team.

Transport

Kyproulla behaved impeccably, and I managed to squeeze her onto a pavement, between two trees. Dainty little thing.

Living the Dream – 55. Rock ‘n’ Roll

“Oh. A George Michael tribute. The same guy that was Freddie Mercury last month. Shall we go?”

Experience prompted me to take a moment before answering. I elected for “hmmm…”

Proof that I can be diplomatic.

Tribute Bands

Let me unpack this for you.

  1. “A George Michael tribute.” A person who may or may not look or sound like George Michael singing his songs. I want to know why the person isn’t singing their own songs. Is this a glorified karaoke, just without audience participation?
  2. “The same guy that was Freddie Mercury last month.” What? This person is essentially an impressionist, presumably without the humour.
  3. “Shall we go?” No. Let’s not. Please, God. Let’s really not. Let’s poke our own eyes out, it will be more fun.

As you may gather, I’m not terribly keen on the idea of tribute bands. I’m sure that they are brilliant and it’s a great night out, but I just cannot muster any enthusiasm for them. That’s not Rock ‘n’ Roll.

However, I am keen that we “live”, that we take as many opportunities as we can to have a good time, to live the dream as it were.

Rock ‘n’ Roll (and opera)

The Cyprus Mail came to my rescue. “UB40 and Remos.” I have no idea who Remos is, but UB40, English band of the 1980s? Them, I knew. I booked us tickets. A stadium gig, no less.

A page later, Il Divo. Pop/Opera crossover, and more importantly one of Mrs L’s favourites. Playing the week after UB40 at the Limassol Garden Theatre. Where UB40 was cheerfully good value for money, Il Divo made my eyes water and my wallet cringe.

Both concerts begin at 2100, meaning we won’t be home till gone midnight. Will we turn into pumpkins? Both are outdoor venues, and both are at sea level. Temperatures are likely to be high 80s, low 90s with high humidity to boot. Doing the concert any earlier would be even hotter.

Scorecard

Our “cultural” tally For Cyprus thus far then, will be:

  • The Central Band of the Royal Air Force in a modern amphitheatre
  • Wine Tasting in a winery
  • A street art festival in Limassol
  • A tour of the Olive Park
  • A book launch in Limassol
  • Hamlet in an ancient amphitheatre
  • UB40 & Remos in a football stadium
  • Il Divo in the Limassol Garden Theatre

Not a bad start, I think.

Amusingly, the promoter suggests ‘formal wear’ for Il Divo. Good luck with that.

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