Sunday, September 11, 2011

Homes: France and Spain, 2004

Before coming back to Canada in the early fall of 2004, I lived for awhile in what had always been my dream – a 6th floor walk-up in Paris.

I’d come to Europe in June to re-walk part of the Santiago pilgrimage. I started at the French/Spanish border and walked to Santiago de Compostela in the north-west corner of Spain. Part of motivation for doing this was to further research the book I’d been working on since first walking pilgrimage in 2000. And I was able to make this return trip to Europe due to the incredible generosity of my dear, late great-uncle.

I first spent a few wonderful weeks living with my backpack in hostels and pilgrim accommodations along the magical trail of St. Jacques. Then I took the train to Barcelona and went a little farther north to stay with a friend I’d met on the trail in her small village not far from the Costa Brava.

Toward the end of July I came to Paris to spend several weeks working on my book. I’d left my computer and some things with a friend there – in fact it was into her place that I moved since she was returning to her home in Switzerland. I had one room in a little three-bedroom apartment shared with two guys, a German and a Canadian.

My room was sparse – a small single bed, a desk, a chair, a drying rack for clothes. The common area was pantry-sized kitchen (two-burner counter-top stove, some shelves for food) and another room with a table, a sink and a shower. To take a shower I’d pull across a folding dividing wall and loop it to the wall to make sort of a triangle between the shower and the rest of the room. Sometimes the clasp would slip and I would have to hope that no one came through the front door just as I was stepping out of the shower.

I spent my days writing, reading and wandering the streets of a city I loved before I knew it. Paris in August is quite deserted, and I knew few people, which only added to my abstract sense of my writer’s solitude.

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