Sunday, September 18, 2011

Homes: France, Spain, Switzerland 2000

I went to Europe in May of 2000 to walk the Camino de Santiago. I landed in Paris and stayed a few days with a friend of mine before taking the train to Le Puy-en-VĂ©lay to begin my pilgrimage. I spent the next 64 days walking 1,600 kilometres across southern France and northern Spain; my home was my backpack and the trail.

Along the way I met a Swiss guy. I told him that I was hoping to stay in Europe after completing the walk so that I could get the first draft of my book done before going back to Canada. He extended an open invitation that I could come and stay with him if I wanted. So I took him up on his offer.

I think my favourite address of the homes I’ve had was this place on Rue de Fleurs, La Chaux-de- Fonds, Switzerland. The street was not actually one of flowers, but rather a strip of three-story apartments that had been built for industry and industrial workers in this little Swiss town up in the Alps. The apartments were adjoining and different colours of exterior paint used to distinguish separate units – so the street had a colourful, almost whimsical feel as if it were made of flowers.

The apartment we lived in was at the end of row of these industrial buildings which seemed to have been built more for functionality than comfort – our little place was a living room, a small kitchen and a bedroom. The toilet was a in a closet-sized room out in the hall (unheated, I might add). Luckily my friend’s mother lived not too far away and she gave us an open invite to come over for showers.

I’d been living for months in my backpack and crowded hostels, so this place seemed pretty great to me. I spent much of my days writing, although I also learned to make some casseroles and earned a little bit of money by looking after a little baby. Some articles I wrote on the pilgrimage were picked up by papers back home (Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoneix) which was encouraging.

Then I moved back to Canada to get a job.

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