No more views of Caribbean beaches, no more signs in Spanish, no more bans against flushing toilet paper down the toilet, and free water at every meal.
We are home.
As our plane lifted off the runway in Bogota, Colombia a few weeks ago, I looked out my window and watched the giant peaks of the Andes that had become such a familiar sight over the last year turn into nothing but tiny anthills. The clouds eventually enveloped the plane and I knew that the next time I touched down, it would be on American soil.
My heart felt heavy, excited, torn, melancholy, scared, happy, and blessed all at the same time. To be honest, I don't know what I was feeling because I had never felt it before.
There are elements of travel that make you feel like you are at home. It can be anything from a familiar face to a familiar food. Sometimes it’s just sitting in a popular ex-pat coffee shop and hearing English speakers all around you, like I’m doing at this very moment.
But then there are those times when you know without a shadow of a doubt that you definitely are not in America anymore. These next few posts will be about a few of those moments, starting with our Turkish bath in, well, Turkey of course.
I’ve fallen a bit behind on a few of my posts, so I’m taking some time to play catch up. I’ll keep this post short because the snow-capped peaks of Patagonia and the loud crashes of a cracking glacier are beaconing me to put my computer away and come outside (more to come on Patagonia in the next few weeks).
Given that my last post was on Mendoza, I figured now is a great time to tell you about another wine region we visited, Tuscany:
Tuscany was the perfect place to get sick.
If you read my post about Porto, you know what big fans we are of Portugal. And as I said in my last post, if Porto has the Portuguese charm, Lisbon’s got her spunk.
I think we saw more of Lisbon at night than during the day. The city has a bridge like the Golden Gate in San Francisco, a statue like The Christ Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, and clubs that stay open till 6am rivaling those in Madrid.
Make sure to check out at least one club if you visit Lisbon. We partied at the popular club, Lux, right on the harbor (only about $15 USD per person cover charge and that included two free drinks). Compared to the States, that’s a steal.
If you are thinking about visiting Portugal…stop thinking; go! This little country surprised us. Although often overshadowed by its bigger, more suave, European neighbors like France, Italy, and Spain, Portugal packed a big punch. Don’t underestimate this lil’ sport.
Portugal competed at all levels (except for maybe in Fútbol) with all the other European countries we visited, but at a fraction of the cost. She had hospitable locals, beautiful architecture, historical monuments, gorgeous coastline, hip nightlife, and tasty wine. And between Lisbon and Porto you can experience all of the above.
In my opinion, Porto holds the charm and Lisbon’s got the spunk.
As I hobbled in to El Burgo Ranero, my right knee had mostly healed, but four new blisters had formed on my feet after several days of walking in the rain. And what had started as a slight tickle in my throat in Hontanas had now turned into vicious fevers, aches and chills. So in need of a good night’s sleep and to be sure I didn’t spread my germs to the other pilgrims, Tom and I decided to take a break from the albergue and get a private room.
After unloading our bags, Tom took off his shirt to take a shower. I squirmed when I saw his entire back and arms still covered by itchy, small, red bumps. Bed bugs attacked him a few nights prior in Fromista. The bites were itchy, but that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part about bed bugs was fearing them.
Climbing into bed at night after a 25km+ hike should feel like a warm hug for a tired pilgrim, but because of these little pests, going to bed was now a fear-ridden ritual of checking seams and praying that we make it through the night bug-free. We were completely defenseless against these microscopic nocturnal monsters and we knew it.
We sat down for dinner with 25 strangers; we enjoyed dessert with 25 friends. On our second night on the Camino, Tom and I stayed in a small village named Larrasoaña. The town had a crummy albergue with no heat and squeaky beds, and only one restaurant. As such, almost every pilgrim in town ate there for dinner. We took our seat at the end of the table across from unfamiliar faces. But by the end of our meal we had sparked several new friendships that would last beyond Santiago.
Later that night, when Tom and I cuddled together on the lower bunk (the only way for us to stay warm without a sleeping bag), we looked up to read inscriptions from previous pilgrims. One in particular resonated with us, “Why am I here?” I believe that the night’s communal dinner was the Camino’s response to our doubt.
The rustle of bags and the sound of zippers beat our alarm to its job. I reluctantly rolled over to check the time…4:45am, ugh. It must be someone getting up to go to the toilet, I thought to myself. But the sound of snoring that I had grown accustomed to throughout the night had ceased and I began to suspect these people were actually waking up to start their walk.
I looked to my left and in the dim moonlight filtering through the window, the shadows of pilgrims zipping their bags, lacing their boots, and fastening their headlamps confirmed my suspicions. What did we get ourselves into?
With sore feet, new friends, lessons learned, and lots of wet socks, we made it to Santiago!
Tom and I just completed a month-long hike through Northern Spain on the Camino De Santiago. As you can imagine, I can’t possibly summarize the last thirty unique, wonderful, and challenging days in one blog post, so the next 4 posts (including this one) will be about our journey.
But before I jump into telling you about our experience of the Camino (and it was quite an experience), let me begin with a high-level, birds-eye perspective of this age-old journey in case it is unfamiliar to you.
What can I tell you about Rome that you don’t already know? It is a well-toured destination with gobs of guides and information on the city. It is home to many top-toured sites including the Coliseum, the Forum, the Vatican, the Pantheon and so much more.
Tom and I spent five days in Rome and one blog post would not be enough to tell you about everything that we saw, did, ate and drank, so I decided to take a different approach to this post. I’m going to tell you what we learned from Rome.
I'm Jaime. My husband is Tom. Suburbanites, backpackers, and expats...we've been them all!