Posts Tagged 'camino de santiago'

lovely luggage

my last day there i helped stefano out in the factory labeling and bottling and packaging an order bound for **dunn dunn dunnnnnnnn** TORONTO!  it was super interesting. every bottle was carefully polished, labeled (two labels by machine and one by hand) before it was hand-wrapped in tissue and placed into a beautiful wooden box, hammered shut and stacked on the pallet. the amount of care that goes into each bottle on such a small estate is phenomenal. and i had always wondered how they get that massive cork into the bottle the first time! i wish i could have taken photos of all the processes (especially for my “how stuff works” fan, julie!!), but you know how companies are about the “inside scoop”.

of course, stefano being the person that he is, loaded me up with everything he could possibly send me home with. i have wine, olive oil, & honey coming out my ears!  i’m not sure i’ve ever met a more generous person.

in order to get all my goods home (thanks to spain losing my other bag… ug) stefano and i spent (literally) an hour MAKING luggage!  first each bottle was packaged in styrofoam and cardboard shippers before being stacked carefully alongside my clothes and other various belongings in a large box. then the box was taped a billion times over and wrapped with celophane. THEN we added at least three different carrying systems complete with more comfortable carrying handles than ANY luggage i’ve ever had! i’ve never seen a more perfect demonstration of stefano’s half-german heritage!


wine country

i hopped on a train from rome to montevarchi (about 2 hours northeast, near arezzo). one of my friends is a winemaker in tuscany, so i never pass up the oportunity to see him if i’m in europe. wonderful human being i met on a sailing trip 4 years ago when i lived in florence.

stefano, his girlfriend valentina, and several of their friends were awaiting my arrival on the platform. we waited for another couple of friends to arrive by train and then hit the party scene. by party scene i mean we drove 20 km east to the next valley. you probably know it – heard of Chianti? Yes…where (and the ONLY place where) real Chianti classico wine comes from. apparently this is the season for festivals, and nearly every night a different vineyard puts on a different party. this particular night was literally in an old fortress…but you’ll have to imagine the open-layout kind of fortress rather than a castle. the kind that’s more like a city within walls. so what would normally be different rooms in a house during a party was instead different little alleyways that opened into small piazzas (squares) between oddly-shaped buildings. what i’m saying is…it was beautiful. the full moon overhead, hilarious music, great wine and food. oh italy.

the next day we went on walks, had friends over for incredible lunches (complete with hand-made (stefano’s an incredible cook) beer, wine, sun-dried tomatoes, bread…basically everything on the table was made from scratch and absolutely to die for. i think any weight i might have lost on my camino was made up for at that lunch.

we swam and had appertivo on a friend’s terrace at a nearby winery (one of the guys took loads of pictures i’ll add as soon as he emails them to me) before having dinner at yet another town festival that evening.

there is just something about the mediterrenean that instills a way of living into people. its absolutely incredible and so freaking difficult to pull myself away from. when stefano and valentina talk of me staying longer next time (a month…two months! come on calais!), of course my wheels start turning…and turning. oh gosh.

ignorant insightfulness

sometimes people say things without ever knowing how profound they are. at one of the various festivals ive attended since landing in italy (ummm…try one every night), another american (ny) happened to tag along with a family friend hes staying with for a month. this guy was FOREVER putting his foot in his mouth and providing entertainment for the rest of the crew. fortunately he was a really great sport about it.

when i met him he immediately asked, “oh! iowas on the east coast, right? near tennessee?) oh goodness…now i see why americans are known for our poor geography knowledge. later at dinner he was telling everyone about how much he wants to “visit south america. brazil mostly. machu pichu!! oh thats in peru? well arent they close? oh…and cancuns in brazil too, right? mexico? oh ok…”

ANYWAY thats not my point. just a funny point of reference about this guy. back to the subject…

the subjects twisted and morphed and eventually we were discussing languages in general when max piped up:

“i hate speaking english. i feel too much like ME when i speak english.”

whew!! i dont think he had a clue what an honest statement that was, but i fully (and humblingly) resonate with it entirely. maybe part of my love for new languages is the oportunity (much like moving or traveling for long periods) to reshape myself. yet another oportunity to shake off the things that may be ‘normal’, but not my true self. really, it can almost feel like youre pretending youre someone else altogether. it certainly feels like a game sometimes…like everyone’s all just pretending they only speak another language just to make you work harder. just an interesting perspective, i thought.

you know youre in italy when…

1. there are ruins all over the place that look like shameful broken things, but in reality theyre just extremely historic old buildings of which they have SO many that they dont even bother to note what they are with a sign

2. everything smells like horse piss

3. your first sip of coffee (even “crappy” train-station coffee) makes you think youve died and gone to heaven

welcome home

we’re flames

There’s a raging battle inside me between complete detatchment and investment. I know which one my life was truly built for, so why is it often so difficult to shake the dreadfully independent and rebelious spirit that wants to take control?

The last week or so has been incredibly humbling. I’ve been looking back over my time here and thinking of the various people I’ve met – ones I’ve known days and ones I’ve known hours. I’m ashamed to say that I could list far too many with whom I wish I could have a re-do. Either I lost my patience too easily or my pride was hurt to quickly and I reacted. Even today on the train I replied a bit rudely when one of the conductors switched to English. She was only trying to be helpful when I’d asked her to repeat herself, but my ego was bruised when she switched languages and I replied in Spanish that “no, I can understand [just fine] if you speak a little more slowly.” I bet she wanted to slap me. I would have had the desire if I was in her position. On second thought, she probably has more grace than that.

I could recount to you all the ridiculous things as such that I’ve done in the last two months, but I’ll save you the hours. Just know there are plenty and ‘m not proud. And my humbling realization has been that… (drum roll please)…

I leave a mark

Right now you’re thinking “ding ding ding. Way to go, Calais. What a realization!” But somehow I’ve tried my best to ignore or deny the fact for awhile. Sometimes I wish it weren’t true. Sometimes I wish I could walk out of a room and everyone forget that I was ever even there. Often actually.

Of course as soon as I think it I know its not fully true – only part of me wants that. The childish selfish part that doesn’t want the reponsibility of being called to something greater than myself. The part that doesnt want responsibility for my actions. The part that doesnt want a history simply for the fear of what effect that history might have had on people and the consequences thereof. The part that knows I’ve hurt people and have the potential to do so again. Oh child…when do you grow up?

A few years back I was learning how to paint and my first few were absolutely excruciating. Finally I got so fed up and decided to buck the system and do it MY way (aka totally wrong), but I finally started painting in a way that felt real (regardless of whether or not you can objectively call it “good” or not.) My second painting was this woman seemingly gliding forward without effort. Behind her she left a streak of color that could just have easily been fire as a celebratory banner. Its one of those times that something just surfaces on my canvas or paper and I have to disect it later…often for years. It came to mind a few days ago as I realized this is ME (read…”this is you and you and you, too”) As I move I leave a streak. A flame. But flames can burn as well as heal. They can destroy as well as cleanse. They can ignite and illuminate or leave piles of rubble, ash, and flowing tears.

And while my first thought is to pray that I carry the better sort of torch, I quickly realize that hoping isn’t enough…if I don’t CHOOSE to die to this self and love moment by moment, its almost doubtless that my sort of fire will leave a whole lot of scars.

the problem with potential

What I’m mourning most leaving this place is the opportunities…the potential I see in each pueblo, in each friendship, in each new trail or train route. There’s so much more here that i havent had enough time to move towards.

This problem arises a lot. Its a big world, after all, and sometimes we have to put on our big-girl bras and decide what pursuit is most important right here and right now.

Its THIS reality that is shifting my plans right now, fortunately. I certainly can’t say what the next few months will bring, but at least I finally know what to move towards.

a sad attempt at farewell

I don´t have sufficient time to explain my sentiments as I gear up to leave this place. I returned to Pais Vasco (San Sebastian/Zarautz if you´re keeping track of the map) to gather my remaining two packages (which are STILL lost somewhere in the spanish mail system, unfortunately. they´ll turn up) and say goodbye to a friend here.

It´s so interesting returning to the place I began. I think it should be mandatory for such journeys. Maybe there´s lesson in there, but I´m going to let you sort that one out rather than trying to tell you how to feel about it.

Just know that I´m doing well. I´m a little nostalgic saying goodbye to Spain (goodbye for now, anyway), but i´m so glad that my farewell is from my starting point. i´ve come a long way, learned invaluable things, and met incredible people. whew. a lot to digest. thankfully i have the rest of my life to do so.

i´ll try and formulate some more complete thoughts on the subject for my next entry, but for now….off to italy…



Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children.
-Kahlil Gibran

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