Walking the Camino de Santiago trail – the wrong way, at 4am…

Katy Georgiou has just returned from a 6-week 500-mile walk across Spain from Pamplona to Santiago de Compostela on the Camino de Santiago trail, an arduous pilgrimage also known in English as the Way of St James. Pilgrims carry scallop shells and the ancient route now takes in some rather large motorways – meaning those brave enough have to dodge cars going at speed limit. Here, we join Katy on the final leg of her adventure…

The alarm went off at 4am. Bleary-eyed, I rustled together my stuff, packed and got out the door with three of my travelling buddies.

We’d hoped to beat the scorching heat and crowds by leaving in the dark… only, we took the wrong route.

Lost in the pitch black on a pathway nowhere near anywhere, a line of bright pink streak lightening shot down in the distance. “Shit” I muttered. “We’re walking right towards it.”

The Camino de Santiago trail takes in beautiful rolling countryside, the Pyrenees mountains and, towards the end, a multi-laned motorway
The Camino de Santiago trail takes in beautiful rolling countryside, the Pyrenees mountains and, towards the end, a multi-laned motorway

Soon it was pouring. Panic set in, but there was no time to wobble. We put on our waterproofs, gathered our wits about us, and with three apps between us, found our way towards a motorway.

We marched on, two by two, trying to make sure we were safe from cars intermittently approaching fast behind us.

Motorway madness

Water dripping down our faces, the glare of our mobile phones got us to an inlay. Amid the splattering sound of rain, a distant sound of cowbells caught our attention.

“What the..?” There, in front of us, dairy cows were facing us like something out of Thriller, invisible in the dark save for their bright red eyes staring ominously in our direction.

“If I take anything from Camino then, it is in the idea that the need to move forward and onwards is an intrinsic part of the human psyche,”

Katy Georgiou

There we were, the four of us in total darkness, pouring rain, a colourful storm brewing with only cows for company, the sound of bells ringing eerily in the wind – yet somehow, motivated by safety in numbers, faith in the process and singing Bohemian Rhapsody, we kept going.

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Throughout the trail yellow spray-painted arrows lead the way

Eventually we merged back onto the Camino path: as we turned a corner, we spotted the Camino sign and jumped with joy.

Out of nowhere, the sun rose, the rain and storms stopped and we were, as if by magic, totally safe.

Making magic

That’s the thing about the Camino: magic things just happen.

It’s as if it is charmed, some benevolent entity shrouding you like a cloud, playing tricks on you one moment, then sending help the next.

The dusty yellow roads transform at times into mountain paths. Each day is unexpected and totally different (Katy Georgiou)
The dusty yellow roads transform at times into mountain paths. Each day is unexpected and totally different (Katy Georgiou)

Throughout, yellow arrows point the way; cafes and accommodation abound, things crop up when you need them.

What it all boils down to is simplicity: wake up, walk with nature. Listen to your body. Stop when you need to. Let the Camino provide.

Should a day be worse than you thought it would be, the next day will always be different, better.

Aside from some vague idea you have of which town to walk to, you never know what will happen or who (or what) you will meet.

Moving forward

Should you have a crap day, the feeling is only fleeting. Come the morning, you are off again somewhere new, like Sam Beckett in Quantam Leap, hurling yourself into the unknown.

It makes us consider the malaise of our modern world: back home, when we’re sad with our lives there’s a sense of being stuck.

When things are bad at work, the feeling is made worse by the knowledge that the next day could bring the same. And the next, and the next.

The destination: the 600 mile trail ends at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, pictured
The destination: the 600 mile trail ends at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, pictured

It is in this repetition that despair can so easily kick in. I’ve just completed a counsellor training course, so it made me think a lot about the rise of mental health issues in the UK.

If I take anything from Camino then, it is in the idea that the need to move forward and onwards is an intrinsic part of the human psyche and can hold some key into how we maintain emotional wellbeing.

If we can find ways on any level to shake up our worlds so that tomorrow morning brings us something different to the night before, then we’ll be ok.

For more about Katy’s journey visit: Caminothegestaltway.wordpress.com

@thegestaltway

Recipe: Diabetic-Friendly Mulled Wine

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Mulled wine is one of the simplest yet yummiest indulgences of the festive season. It gives the perfect mix of warmth, spice and nostalgia to get you in the mood for autumn and winter evenings.

Spanish wines are my favourites; they’re robust, rich and fruity. This also makes them ideal for mulling. Inspired by the flavours of Spain, this mulled wine recipe for diabetics is delicious, without the high sugar content.

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Ingredients:

1 bottle of red wine
6 tbsp granulated Splenda
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
4 cloves
2 oranges, sliced
125ml water
1 vanilla pod

Method:

  • Pour your wine into a deep, heavy pan and add the cinnamon sticks, cloves and star anise.
  • Let it simmer over a medium heat for a few minutes before adding the vanilla pod and sliced orange to the mix.
  • Stir occasionally to ensure that the fruit is moving about and getting lots of colour from the wine as it mulls.
  • Add the water and turn up the heat slightly for a couple of minutes, then turn it down again, making sure the wine doesn’t boil.
  • Finally, add the Splenda and mix it in until fully absorbed.
  • Leave on a low heat and serve in small glasses using a ladle. Add some decorative garnish if you wish.

Find out more about Splenda’s range of sugar alternatives here. See Waitrose Cellar’s page about mulled wine here.

Looking for more delicious recipes for diabetics? Check out the excellent The Guilt-free Gourmet: Indulgent recipes without sugar, wheat or dairy on Amazon.

Charming Calvia: Mallorca’s Other Side

When you think of Mallorca, chances are the images that spring to mind are of package holidays, busy beaches in summertime and the infamous Magaluf party strip. These are undeniably the familiar elements that make the Spanish island such a well-known tourist destination. But there’s so much more to this tantalising island, as I recently discovered whilst exploring the region of Calvia.

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Things to see and do

1. Mallorca has a rich and fascinating history full of conflict, legend and tradition, and Calvia provides an excellent introduction to it. The region boasts three intriguing historic walking routes that trace the paths of Christians and Muslims, as well as the battlegrounds of both. Perfect for independent travellers and hikers. The trails track the stories of Muslims and Christians before and during battle in 13th century, with each offering a new insight or perspective on the events. Boards with historical info guide you across the island through gorgeous scenery that covers urban, coastal and hillside exploration.

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2. As much as the sand and the sun makes a nice change from the drizzle of Britain, too much time spent lounging around on the beach can – dare I say it – get a bit boring after a few days (not to mention turn you lobster pink, but I’m not here to judge you for your tanning habits). If you fancy getting away from the beach, there are a number of championship putting greens for golfers, as well as sportier options for more active visitors. Calvia has excellent facilities for hiking, cycling, football, athletics, tennis and more.

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3. What’s the fun of visiting an island if you don’t get to see it from the water? Taking to the sea for a boat ride is one of my favourite things to do when I travel, so I was delighted to hop on a Cruceros Costa de Calvia vessel for a trip around Mallorca. Views of rugged clifftops and beautiful beaches are on show as you sail across the water. The trip takes about two hours and includes a chance to take a dip in the water. If swimming’s not your thing, stay on board and enjoy a drink at the on-board bar. You can also get close up with the underwater wildlife by spending time below deck where the boat features glass panels for your viewing pleasure.

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4. The Galatzo Estate is a stunning natural reserve that represents 10% of the surface area of the municipality of Calvia as a whole. Since 2006 it has been publicly owned and it’s a popular area for hiking, cycling and horse-riding. If getting sweaty with an active day out doesn’t tickle your fancy, it’s worth visiting the manor house on the estate. It features gorgeous architecture, views up towards the mountains and a fascinating former olive oil production outfit, with examples of the equipment still present on-site.

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Places to eat

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The eateries scattered across the Calvia region are full of authenticity and culture. Get away from the main tourist strip and resist the mediocre resort food by venturing out into the countryside terrain. Calvia is just brimming with mouthwatering Spanish and Mallorcan cuisine. Try the foodie recommendations below for something a little less expected and altogether more satisfying.

1. Las Olas in Santa Ponsa

Just a 5-minute walk from the beach, this restaurant has outdoor seating that overlooks the ocean. They serve up a delicious range of seafood, prepared with that distinctive Spanish and Mallorcan flair. Try their incredible seafood paella – it’s the best I’ve ever had in Spain!

2. Ristorante La Gritta in Porto Faro

Oozing with the feel of old Spain, especially in its quaint décor, this restaurant serves up scrumptuous, hearty meals with a rustic touch. The poolside outdoor patio has incredible views of the surrounding rooftops and the sea, and is a great spot to watch the sun set over a bottle of local wine with friends.

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3. Es Repos in Portals Vells

Tucked away in a spot where locals come to dine, the first thing you’ll notice about this place is it simple outdoor seating: plastic chairs and 1970s-style table cloths. Despite its modest appearance, it offers delicately prepared and wonderfully flavoured dishes – specialising, of course, in seafood.

4. Wellies in Portals Nous

Situated in a classy but laid-back area near a marina full of luxury yachts, this two-storey restaurant serves Spanish classics as well as global favourites such as gourmet burgers and Indian-style curries. Visit for a relaxed atmosphere, excellent service and yummy fare that keeps visitors and locals alike coming back.

Where to stay

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For 4-star accommodation away from the standard resort areas, check out the waterfront Son Caliu Hotel & Spa in Palmanova. It’s easy walking distance to the area’s main drag of shops and bars, and boasts subtropical gardens and private access to a beautiful secluded beach.

There’s a restaurant, indoor and outdoor pools and a business centre on-site, as well as a tennis court, a gym and a spa. Free WiFi is available throughout the property, and a hot and cold breakfast buffet is served each morning.

Room rates start at around £140 per night for a standard double on a B&B basis.

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Getting there

RyanAir and EasyJet fly from London to Palma de Mallorca with flight prices starting at around £59 per person (excluding baggage). Calvia is just a 20-minute drive from Palma’s airport, and most hotels will arrange guest transfers for an extra fee.

For more information and help planning your trip to Calvia, head over tovisitcalvia.com.

All images copyright © 2014 Jesse Norton. Follow Jesse on Twitter here.

Boots of Spanish Leather

If you were expecting a post about a new pair of shoes, I’m sorry to disappoint you folks. That title is a reference to the Bob Dylan tune ‘Boots of Spanish Leather’. Listen to it below while you read on, it’s gorgeous.

Now then, why are you posting about this song, I hear you ask?

Well, tomorrow I’ll be jetting off to Barcelona for a few days with my lovely daddy. We haven’t properly travelled just the two of us in a while – I think our last trip was to Edinburgh all the way back in 2009. We got snowed in on our last night there and the airline paid for us to stay in a swanky hotel with a ceiling shower bigger than my head. We do like an adventure.

Anyway, despite all my travelling antics so far, I’ve never actually made it to Spain, which makes me even more excited about this trip. We’re flying cheap but staying in a nice hotel. If there are two things my dad and I enjoy, it’s food and wine. From what others have told me, Barcelona has both of these things in high quality and vast quantity. Perfect.

I can’t wait – I better just make sure I pronounce ‘chorizo’ right. Om nom nom.

Spanish Chorizo