For the heathens among you, I’ll say hello to God on your behalf

follow the little man in the funny hat

Arrived yesterday, but didn’t feel comfortable talking about the Camino de Santiago, because I’d not even started it. Standing on the main square in front of the cathedral in Logroño

right in the middle of the middle of La Rioja

…listening to the pilgrims grinningly go on about their myriad of ailments, I felt so out of place. On the outside looking in, as it were. Many of them had been at this for upwards of a week or more. They were hobbling into town regaling one another with the status of their injuries, while I was chipper and ready to go.

While waiting impatiently for my start the following morning, I strolled around the capital of Rioja and mindfully appreciated my fresh and unchallenged legs and feet. ‘Enjoy this while you can,’ I reminded myself. ‘Soon enough you’ll have your own well-earned philosophies of proper foot care on the Camino.’

breakfast in Navarette

At an ungodly hour, I was out the door of the albergue and far from the only pilgrim already on the streets out of town. By leaving that early, there were few, if any, options for breakfast. Hoofing it the twelve kilometres to Navarette was certainly sweetened by the thought of a café con leche and pretty much anything they were offering in the way of food.

It might be a cliché that you appreciate the smallest things on such a trip, but there was nothing cliché about the taste of that coffee.

There was a church there, too, and if you’re one who gets easily bored of pictures of churches, you might consider not reading this blog for the next little while.

It’s pretty much guaranteed to be a mix between a lot of sweaty hikers and Spanish religious architecture from here on out. You’ve been adequately warned.

churchin’ it up in Navararette

For the heathens among you, I’ll say hello to God on your behalf.

Just waiting to go

packed and ready to go

The last blogpost about leaving for the Camino resulted in so much interest from both people on social media and folk with whom I interact in my daily life. I was thrilled by comments from people who’ve been on a pilgrimage or those who were curious what it was all about.

Some insisted that they wouldn’t feel safe walking alone, and my assurance that you’re never really alone on such a trip was met with incomprehension.

There are plenty of things I’ve read and heard about how people are protected and provided for as they’re walking the Camino. It all sounds a bit unbelievable at this point, but I’m doing my best to suspend disbelief and see what it’s like with my own eyes.

That’s the funny thing: I’ve read everything I can get my hands on. I’ve watched documentaries about pilgrimages in general and the Camino de Santiago in particular, but there’s one thing left that I’ve not done.

I’m packed.

The dogs have gone to the sitter.

I’ve cleaned out my fridge, so I don’t have to throw away any food upon my return.

There’s just one thing left that I haven’t done. I’ve not actually left yet. That’s it. I’m just waiting to go.

With all of this Vorfreude, which is this German word that means something like ‘the joy of anticipation‘. That’s exactly where I am now.

Just waiting to go.

heed that guy’s warning, would you?


getting geared up

I’ll admit it – I’m a little nervous about my feet. 

Blogs and online forums and even a few old-fashioned books I’ve been poring over have adequately warned me how important foot maintenance is when it comes to the kind of long-distance walking I’ll soon be doing. For those of you not hanging on my every word over here, I’ll catch you up quickly:

I’m soon leaving for Spain, where I’m walking a bit of the Camino de Santiago. As I’ve said repeatedly, I’m not walking the whole thing. I’m getting a taste for this pilgrimage and then, in all likelihood, I’ll be back at some future date for more of the same. 

The photo above is what I’ve already amassed in hopes of decent care of my hind paws. Again and again I hear and read about how the time you spend while on the Camino: you’re either walking or taking care of your feet. I’m sure I’ll  appreciate the scenery and the comeraderie of the other pilgrims, but right now I can only think of one thing: I’ve got this picture in my head of me coming home missing toenails and reminiscing fondly of a time back when I could still fully feel my extremities. 
You likely assume I’m exaggerating, and I’ve been accused of that sort of thing before. Comes with the territory, I suppose. Come back and talk to me in a few weeks, though, and we’ll see. I’ll be the old-timer hobbling along wagging his finger ominously. ‘Proper foot care, m’boy. It’s all about taking care of those five-toed wonders at the end of your legs.’ 

Somebody heed that guy’s warning, would you?

Walking down the road…or getting ready to

Camino symbol

When I first started hiking here in the German Alps, I kept seeing that symbol above. ‘What is that?‘ I’d ask.

Oh, it’s the Jakobsweg.

Huh? What’s the Jakobsweg?

You know, it’s a pilgrimage. One of the oldest ones in Europe, I think. Many people walk it.

Now that I know a bit more about it, I can tell you: some English names for it are The CaminoThe Road to Santiago, The Way of St James or St James’s Way depending on your preference.

The long and short of it is that I’ve said for years, ‘I want to go do that someday.‘ There was a German bestseller about walking the route (the name of the book I won’t bother mentioning), and although the Jakobsweg was already very popular hereabouts, it suddenly became even more so.

Then I saw the Emilio Estevez movie ‘The Way‘ (starring his father Martin Sheen), and not long after that I was asked if I wanted to come along and do some Walking Down the Road. Yes, I did.

I still do.

There’s a lot that goes into planning such a thing, and the more I read about it, the more out of my depths it seems I am. However, there seem to be plenty of folk who do this and they seem to do it and even make it back somehow.

To be clear up front: I’m not even planning on walking the whole thing. My intention is to get a taste for it, and from what I understand: once I do, I’ll definitely want to go again.

I’ve been alternating between obsessing about which shoes I’ll wear and imagining how delicious the Tapas in Logroño are. Already, I’ve decided I’ll be documenting as much of it here as I can.

Not just the actual walking of The Camino, but I intend to blather on about the preparation and I suspect I might find myself contemplating what it meant to me long after I get back home.

Like I said, I’ve still got to decide on footwear. Here’s a photo of me taking one pair out for a test drive. I’m pretty sure you’ll be seeing plenty more of this sort of thing in the foreseeable future. Something tells me you can hardly wait.

Camino prep stuff




Their brogues and their cheer and their utter joy


after all these years

I’ve connected with friends via social media and even met quite a few people face-to-face who I’d first connected with online. I was rather active on twitter back before it seemed to be mostly brands and marketing accounts, and between that and writing a tea blog, I made the acquaintance of quite a few of the no-longer-stranger sort of people who now inhibit my online village. It’s nothing particularly new, but it is funny when I’m asked where I know someone from and I sheepishly mention that we met via the web.
But this isn’t one of those stories. Not in the least. The guys on either side of me in the photo above are two geezers that I met back when we were all still kids. Not that I was particularly close to either of them back then, but thanks to social media being what it is they reconnected with mutual friends the way one does. Soon enough, we were similarly connected & there were the usual polite offers of, ‘Hey, whenever you’re in Munich, you should definitely get in touch.

Yes, of course. Like that was ever going to happen.

Well, it happened.

They flew in from Aberdeen for the weekend and I gave them my informal tour of Bavarian capital’s city centre. Of course there were libations and stories and political discussions and eventually a bit of the local fare. The afternoon became evening and the time somehow flew by as if we’d somehow been in contact all these years. It was that good. I could give you a list of superlatives about how intriguing and enjoyable the conversation was, but I’m not sure my words would do it justice.

We’d all heard about the horrible events in Paris the previous night. I suppose it might’ve been understandable if we were somehow morose or somber even, but I don’t think the thought ever crossed our collective minds.

Here were two guys – Jamie on the left and Martin on the right – whose lives were indescribably enriched by visiting our boisterous and slightly off-kilter art school back when we thought we’d figured it all out. Little did they know how much they’d brought to the table. That we world-wise and somewhat jaded American musicians and dancers and artists and writers had been just as grateful to meet these guys with their brogues and their cheer and their utter joy.

Of course the conversation veered to mutual friends we had lost. It was inevitable but somehow cathartic. They wanted more stories and I was happy to provide them. There was a tale they’d heard about something that I’d done at a funeral. I sheepishly assured them it was true. Guilty, as charged.

After safely depositing them back at their hotel, I walked the quiet streets back toward mine. What a curious and precious thing this is. All of it. Might sound cliche, but don’t take it for granted. Breathe in deeply and lean in. You’ll be glad you did.

up up up the stairs in Verona

going up up up in Verona

going up up up the stairs in Verona (photo: Meredith Marek)

Straight from late summer into what feels like winter, we’ve somehow missed autumn entirely. The leaves are yellowed and fall magnificently, but the temperature is blustery.

My thoughts are down south in Italy where I’m sure it’s not only warmer but they’re eating particularly good ice cream while maneuvering the cobble-stoned streets.

One of the first things I like to do when I arrive in a city with any sort of hills, is to go up up up and find the nicest view of the place. The photo above was a moment where I thought, ‘People actually get to live here.

Considering I live in Munich, which is another place where visitors walk around and marvel at the wonder of living in such a beautiful place, I appreciate the novelty of the tables being turned for a change.

Yet here I am back home dreaming of exotic ice cream flavours and homemade pasta and the reflection of the sunlight on the water. We’ve got sunshine and water and all the rest of it hereabouts, but it’s somehow just not the same.


Another chapter in the book of Fafa


Fafa in Strasbourg on the River Ill

The last week has been filled with adventures while my mother was in Germany. She made her annual European trip, which included a week in France, and then she and I met up in Strasbourg before our return to Munich

She loves Munich – as I’ve often mentioned here, we lived here in the early 70s – and at the end of her trip, I asked again if she’d seen enough of the Bavarian capital. Would she want to venture out & see more of the rest of Germany. Although she’s already seen so much of my adopted country and especially of this beautiful city, she insisted that there was plenty more she wants to experience. Not only other cities & regions she’s until now only read about but most importantly shed like to continue to venture out from Munich as a starting point. 

We both agreed that it’s not always easy living so far apart, but her regular travel thisaway makes it a bit more tolerable. Like so many other familes living on separate continents, technology also allows us to regularly communicate in real time. Unquestionably, it’s a second rate substitute, but it at least provides some alternative. 

So what exactly have we been up to? Well, the photo above is on a boat tour of Strasbourg. That’s the River Ill, so we were quite literally ‘illing’. We ate a lot of Bavarian food; it’s possible we even are the equivalent of our body weight in Schnitzel. 

I’ve written about her here: Happy Birthday Fafa, which also explains that’s a nickname she’s gone by since she was a child. 

Because she’s so regularly here, my mom has befriended quite a few people hereabouts. This means she arrives with a bit of an agenda to see and be seen. And because she’s so gregarious, there’s often a new crowd of admirers asking when she’ll be back. 

Ella and Louis pondering her return