A piece of advice for anyone taking a bus: don’t take for granted that they’ll have restrooms on board. I assumed mine would and well, let’s just say the mid-road break was more than welcome.
The road to Porto was nice. After a good week of grey weather it was finally sunny again: the blue of the sky made the autumn mountains look beautiful and you could see the ocean from time to time. We stopped at Pontevedra, and from what I glimpsed of the city through the bus windows, the city looks beautiful.
I arrived in Porto around 16h with enough time before me to check into my hostel and take a quick tour of the city before exhaustion settled in. The city was quite alive with people everywhere, live music on the street… The bridge next to the castle offers a pretty amazing view over the bay, and with the setting sun it made for a lovely sight.
The next day, I was woken up by one asshole who took a phone call around 8 inside the dorm and didn’t even try to lower his voice. I’m pretty sure I’d rather have people snoring; at least they don’t do it on purpose. After breakfast, I spoke a bit with a couple of travelers from Mexico, the girl being a student abroad in Strasbourg! The world can be quite small from time to time.
That morning, I had planned on walking as far as I could towards the ocean. After an hour though, I felt that I had seen enough. I tried to find a way to go to the other side of the bay but from where I stood there wasn’t any way for pedestrians, so I walked back to my hostel, once again very tired.
My initial plan was to hop from city to city: something like Porto, Lisboa, Faro, Seville, Madrid, Barcelona… But I quickly realized that my heart wasn’t in travelling anymore. I think I had my share. I wasn’t able to enjoy Porto to its fullest and I had no reason to believe this feeling would go away, so it was time to go home.
I booked a flight to Paris for the next day even though I hate those things and an airbnb in Paris right away. It was only once everything was booked and paid that I noticed I took a ticket for the wrong date: my flight was scheduled for the 14th of december, one month away. Oh, so that’s why the tickets were so cheap…
I spent about an hour trying to find an alternate plan. The best I came up with was to go to Lisbon for two days and take a plane from there. I spent the rest of the day being so annoyed with myself that I didn’t do anything at all and stayed at the hostel, reading and watching stuff on my phone.
So the next day, I took the train to Lisbon. The sights were once again quite nice, between the ocean and the mountains. Once in Lisbon, it was only a two minutes walk from the station to the ocean; it lookes like there was a old boat anchored there but the buildings next to it were blocking the view. I walked to my hostel and it once I was in front of it I noticed its name: “The G-Spot” Very subtle. But I gotta hand it to them: everybody was very welcoming! I had barely arrived that I had a beer in my hand and was invited to try the cocktails they were making.
We had dinner together as well, then drank some more and played beer pong. I was better at it than I remembered and almost ended up champion of the night! Maybe I should play handball again… We then got out to enjoy the nightlife, even though it was early in the week. Lisbon seems like a good student town, with lots of bars and young people. I woke up a little hungover the next day…
I spent the morning slacking off at the hostel and the early afternoon walking around the city. I found a cafe to read, after what I went back to hostel and talked with the residents around dinner and wine. I skipped the bar hopping that night: I didn’t want to be hungover for my flight the next day.
It’s quite easy to get from the center of Lisbon to its airport and quick as well. Even the flight was not that bad! Once I got out of the airport in Paris, it finally struck me: I was back. Everybody was speaking French, and that felt odd for a couple of minutes. And obviously, it was raining! But nonetheless, it was good to be there. In the end, I spent two nights in Porto, two nights in Lisbon, and two nights in Paris. On the seven day, I carpooled to Strasbourg.
At the exception of my host, I had told nobody that I was coming back, and therefore nobody expected me. I dropped my stuff, took a quick shower, then went out for a beer at my usual bar. I knew that a few friends of mine that had a band were celebrating the release of their first EP by having a gig, and that’s where I headed next. I arrived right before the end of the it, with almost nobody noticing me there until I was right in front of them. Between the hoodie and the beard, I guess that was to be expected! Once it was over, I reunited with everybody and I was officially back.
Time for the name dropping! First and foremost, I have to thank Loïc for pretty much everything. I’m pretty sure that I would not have seen this trip through had he not been involved. So cheers, man. Guy too, for going out of your way to help and host us who were complete strangers to you; your kindness will be remembered.
To Daniel and Françoise, the first pilgrims we met on the road; to the tourism office lady from Maubourguet who helped us a lot more than she had to; to all the CouchSurfing community from Pau for welcoming us, with a special mention for Sophie and Julien who hosted us in extremis; the bartenders in Eysus for their welcoming; Pascale and Maryvonne for always being cheerful; and the two hikers from Bayonne who helped not get lost in the Pyrenees and share their food and coffee with us.
To Rose and Dave for being perfect hosts; Jens for his constant good mood and for being a good drinking buddy and a good friend; Ilay for his neverending puns and good cooking; Andrea for making me see more of Pamplona than I would have had she not been on tinder; Zoltan for being such an inspiration; and Manu and Stephan for always being there when it came to share a few beers.
To Jem and his way with words that always made you wonder wether he was serious or not; Saula, for always being there for a hug and a few jokes; Krista for being such good company; Monica, for sharing all those coffee breaks with me and all the talks we had; Jose, for being a well-meaning pain in my ass; James, for reminding me to keep pushing my limits; and Christian, for being a good friend, good drinker, and all those amazing pictures you took.
To the italians and those that revolved around them: Marina, Ilias, Fabio, Davide, Mario, Denise, Romain, Macarena, her father Alvaro, Melania, Jone, Luciano, Jordi. Even though I couldn’t speak with most of you, we shared something.
To Paul, for all the interesting conversations we had and for constantly challenging me; Stera, for reminding to go past first impressions; Corry and Adelina, for reminding me that not everybody has it easy and that it doesn’t have to be a blocker; and Laura, for being such a funny host
To Brice, for reminding me that even on the camino people can be assholes and that one doesn’t always get what he wants; Gaby and Elena for always smiling and being good fun; Ben and Ollie for not allowing my nights out in Santiago to be boring; and finally to El Puto Oso, for being a reminder that a small idea can go a long way.
To Peter, Ann, Julio, Jean-Louis, Oana, Sacha, the groups of koreans, Isabel, Crystal, Anna, Margaret, Susan, Laurent, Amy, Aaron, Diego, Yutaka, Mia, Nora, Mike, Jess, Craig, Edward, Jenny, Lukas, irish Paul, Dorothea, Steffi, and the ones I forgot to mention, even though we didn’t talk as much as we could or should have.
Thank all of you for being a part of my camino. You won't be forgotten.
Well, that took longer that I expected. I didn’t count, but it’s safe than say that I spent a few days on this account of mine, half of it consisting of proofreading, editing, and handling the pictures. Though I have been been home for about a month now, reading my notes and going through my pictures was quite a walk down memory lane, one that I enjoyed taking and, I hope, one that you have enjoyed reading.
This is the first time that I write non-fiction, and it proved challenging in many ways. First, there’s the issue of memory. With so many events over so many days and weeks, at many points I wondered if I wasn’t mixing up memories from two different days, or if I didn’t distort what happened. Like I said at the beginning, memories are tricky and may not always be reliable. I’m lucky that I had my notes to guide me through it all: without them, this story would have been left unwritten.
That being said, I wish I had put more thoughts into my notes: there is so many conversations and things that happened burried somewhere in the depths of my mind, and I probably never will be able to talk or write about them. I’m not sure sure how I could have found the time to write about them without missing on them. Maybe a dictaphone? I don’t know. I hope I’ll figure something out for my next travels.
The second point that proved troublesome concerned everybody else. Non-fiction tends to involve third parties, and in this case a lot of them. When it comes to relating events, how do I chose what is private and what is not? I cannot possibly go and ask everyone involved their permission to write about them, but I feel like I should. I did what most of us would have done: I used my common sense to decide what to leave out of this writing, either because it is not my story to tell, or because I’m not sure the ones involved would be ok with it. Also, I had to ponder wether what I wanted to write could turn into a problem for me, but that was not as big a deal, all things considered.
So this account is not a full account of everything that happened on my camino, but it is a true account nonetheless. It is the truth that I’m comfortable sharing with the world.
And for those of you interested in technical details, here’s a few.
Pictures are stored on Amazon S3, and they are the only thing that I have to pay for. It should be cheap enough for me not to care about it, but in the unlikely event that I get a lot of traffic, I may end up setting up a donation system to cover my costs. If that happened, I’ll be fully transparent over what costs I have to bear and what I receive.
The pictures are licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. To sum up, you can use and share my pictures only for non-commercial purposes, and with giving me credit for them. If you wish to use them for commercial purposed, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I wrote the word “coffee” 41 times, beer(s) 24 times and wine 22 times. I expected more, to be honest. From day one to Homecoming, I wrote 21162 words; under the rules of National Novel Writing Month, it is less than half the length of a novel.