Getting Closer!

In less than a month, Erik and I will be on a plane ready to begin our 3 month adventure in Europe and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. There are so many things happening at the same time – cleaning and packing up my classroom, making goodbye gifts for my kids, meeting with the new teacher and planning the last week, last minute shopping and organizing gear for our trip, all kinds of paperwork things to deal with when leaving the country for 3 months, cleaning and organizing the house for my daughter who is moving in, trying to get in some seriously long hikes as often as possible – the control freak in me is feeling a little stressed. I am sooooo looking forward to sitting in a cafe in France with a glass of wine in my hand!

Saying Goodbye to Teaching (sniff, sniff)

This is the cover of the “goodbye” book I made for the kids in my class. I love this story and I told the kids that it has good advice whether you’re in Grade Three or retiring. If you haven’t read it, do it now!

I am on Spring Break right now and then I go back to work for the last three days of March. As weird as it seems, it’s kind of nice to know I get to go back for a couple of days to say goodbye.

During the break, I’ve been busy at school cleaning and packing up a lot of my room.  I have 24 years of stuff that I’ve accumulated and it’s hard to decide what to keep, what to give away, and what to toss.

The teacher who is taking over my class came in to meet the kids one day before the break and I think they are going to love her, so now I’m feeling more at ease. Most of my parents have been supportive and understanding of my decision to leave before the end of the year, but a few were concerned about how the transition will affect their children.  I think I’ve put their minds at ease and they’ve adjusted to the idea now, but it is always very stressful when a parent is unhappy.

The new teacher and I also met this week to look through my room and decide on what things she’d like to use and which things I should take out of the room now. The rest, I’ll pack up when I get back in July. I need to write a whole post about early retirement because I have a lot more to say about it.

Camino Training Update

Barb Hiking Thomson Flats 2016
Hiking in the hills behind my house, testing our rain gear and trail shoes.

Yeah, so training did not go as planned back at the beginning of January.  On my first day walking home from school, I fell on the ice and sprained my wrist.  Before my wrist had fully healed, I had yet another very bad cold that kept me home from work for over a week, and I continued coughing heavily for another 2 weeks after that. By the time I felt healthy enough to resume training, I was too busy at work with report cards and finishing up the term to be able to get out for regular exercise. The lingering fatigue from back-to-back illnesses didn’t help.

However, in the middle of February Erik and I started getting out on weekends for long walks with full backpacks. We started with 8-10 km per day (Saturday and Sunday) and worked our way up to 14 km per day.  We’ve done slow hilly climbs and fast flat walks on all kinds of surfaces (dirt trail, gravel, mud, and pavement) and so far my legs are feeling great.  Both of us have noticed we hardly feel the backpacks any more.  I’ve been carrying 12-13 lbs each trip and I’m hoping my pack won’t be much heavier than that when we are on the Camino.

Finalizing Our Trip Plans

I know we originally said we’d “wing it” for the France portion of our trip but we ended up planning it all out anyway. I guess we are really just not “winging it” kind of travellers. 🙂 Plus we’ll have plenty of winging-it time on the Camino anyway, right? We started looking at places we wanted to visit in southern France, and then at accommodations, and soon we found ourselves booking places. We are really excited about this first leg of our trip though, most of which will be in the beautiful Dordogne area, between Avignon and Bordeaux. We chose smaller medieval villages and tried to book apartments instead of hotels as often as we could, staying in each place 3-4 nights so we have plenty of R&R time.

Here’s the rough plan of all 3 legs of our trip.

Leg One – France – April 9-24

April 9 – We fly to Paris, via Toronto, and immediately take the train to Avignon

Avignon – 2 nights to relax and get over jet lag. We’ve been to Avignon several times during the super busy Theatre Festival time in July, so it’ll be nice to stay right in the old town and hang out when it’s much quieter. Sites to see: Pont D’Avignon (from the song “Sur le Pont, D’Avignon…”) and the Palais des Papes – where the Pope(s) lived for about 60 years in the mid 1300’s because it was too dangerous in Rome at the time. Our apartment was booked through AirBnB.

A younger version of me in Avignon, July 2007.

On April 12, we will rent a car and start the driving portion of our trip

Carcassonne – 2 nights at a hotel right next to one of the gates to the ancient medieval fortified city where we will spend a day or so checking out this well known city steeped in 2500 years of history.

Carcassonne, photo credit: France via photopin (license)

Albi – 3 nights about 90 minutes north west of Carcassonne. This town is famous for the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum as well as its cathedral, which is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We may do a day trip into the nearby city of Toulouse while we are here. We found our apartment through

Albi, photo credit: Hidden Beauty via photopin (license)

Beynac-et-Cazenac – 4 nights in this picturesque village on the Dordogne River, an hour or so north west of Albi. It is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France. We booked our apartment through AirBnB and plan to do day trips to some of the many other beautiful villages nearby.  We may also take a boat tour or visit the Lascaux Caves.

Beynac-et-Cazenac, photo credit: Beynac-et-Cazenac via photopin (license)

Biarritz – 3 nights in this luxurious touristy city right on the border of Spain for a few days on the beach. Here we will get our backpacks ready, drop off the rental car, and hop a train ride to St Jean Pied de Port to begin the next leg of our adventure!

Biarritz, photo credit: Good night Biarritz ! via photopin (license)

Leg Two – Spain – April 25- June 3

When we arrive in St Jean, we will pare down to our backpacks to only the bare essentials and then use a transfer/storage company to send our suitcases off to Santiago. (Watch for a future post with my packing list for the Camino if you are interested.)

We have given ourselves 40 days to walk the 800km to Santiago de Compostela.  We plan  to average about 20-25 km per day and are giving ourselves about one rest day per week. We are hoping to get to Santiago around June 1 or 2 and then if we have time, we may take a bus to Finisterre on the coast to see the ocean, before our flight to Rome on June 4.

photo credit: Misty morning on the Camino de Santiago in the Pyrenees near Orisson via photopin (license)

Leg Three – Italy – June 5 – July 5

We will be staying in an apartment in Orvieto, Italy where we will live like Italians for a month and hope to decompress and reflect upon our walk. If we aren’t in a zen-like state by the time we return to Kelowna on July 6, I’ll be surprised.

The Piazza Duomo, in front of the magnificent Orvieto Cathedral.  Our apartment is just off the right of this picture that we took one evening last August.

So – it’s getting real  – retirement, our trip, all of it!  I am hoping to update my blog as we go – I’ll have my laptop in France and Italy, but I’ll have to do a simpler, minimalist job on my iPhone

while we are on the Camino, so you may have to be a little patient.

You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Spreaker, or iTunes.  Just click the links on your right to find me!

Check out our podcast on iTunes here – March 4, Episode #7 – “Getting Closer”

or directly on Spreaker, here.  Episode #7 on Spreaker

Please leave a comments or questions below. And if you listen to the podcast, we’d REALLY appreciate some reviews – thanks!

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