1st Time in Paris

What a day. Happy. Sad. Happy. Sad. Peaceful. Sad & Glad to be Going Home. No Doubt.

With mixed emotions on my trip ending in Paris (and its timing), I am happy I came here. It has been said by many and felt by me that my Lindy Bullock-Cox was “with me” and here the whole time. For a little piece (peace) of closure today, it happened, a little I would say:)

Had a magnificent day exploring Paris the way “we would have”, minus the 2-3 hour walking breaks she would have insisted on!
(Almost bought a dog! Ollie and Sassy would have not been happy. Dog had her traveling papers and all tho!)

Chocolate crepe, per John John Pedigo suggestion to start the day. Louve was closed but the Orsay museum, also his suggestion, was great, and it was open. A little Monet, Manet and a little tipeetipeedayday does the heart good.

Tried the Catacombs but dang the line was 4 hours long. With one day in Paris, too much to see to wait! I really wanted to see this!!!!

Soaked it all in. Had a personal moment to mark the end of my journey. I’m satisfied and I pray I will find the same peace when I get home.

Flight home Du matin at 10:40 am. Thank you guys for all the moral support. I can’t say that enough.

Amour et paix,
Michael

Day 16: Finished the Walk for Jacque

(Had to fix the typos. It’s what Lindy would have insisted on)

I have say, I’m sad the walk is over but, glad to get home and deal with her loss head on. I am sitting on a train now from Santiago at to Madrid overnight. I am trying to get to Paris by Wednesday where my flight home awaits. It was impossible to get a flight from Santiago to Paris today. I am train’n it now to Madrid so I can hopefully get a flight from there.

I had and am having some sad moments right now. I am trying to choke down a bottle of wine through my tears. I’m glad the walk is over but still super sad there is no one to go home to. I hate not getting text from her, pics of the dogs and general silence from her when I know she is asleep. Some say I ran. I say I was trying to find meaning in this. I did. Hard to share and very emotional but, I found a seed of a start. I will never understand or be “good” with it but, God must have a purpose. No one should bear this much pain without a silver lining somewhere. All I know is I have to trust God. Trust him faith to faith and minute to minute to know what he is doing or i will go crazy.

We all woke up this morning and got a good start on the day. We arrived in Santiago, after stoping for breakfast. Santiago in the dawn was the the perfect time. We were an hour early to mass so we went to the pilgrim office to get our certificates.

Well that was a bunch of S&$@. I walked 149 miles total and I have the stamps to prove it! The lady at the pilgrim office says I didn’t walk the last 60 miles so I didn’t get “the” religious certificate! It said in he guide you only have up walk 100 km (62 miles) to get the official certificate. Well I skipped a stage to make my flight. I argued for 20 minutes over the fact that there are these pretentious people who drop in the last 60 miles and have vans haul their bags and they get a certificate? Please. The lady said, “you can take it up with the boss in the morning!” I said, “who God? Uh..I think I will take it up with him now!” “Fuy! I did this for me and to mourn my wife. Take that certificate and, well, you know what you can do with it!”

I got a non-religious certificate and I fine with it. I don’t care.

I did have fun with Seimän and Claudia today. We went to an amazing mass and went and had Sangria after on a sunny patio for several hours. We talked about what we all got out of the walk and I appreciate them indulging my sadness. I feel I will be forever friends with these two!

Had a hell of a time getting a flight out of Santiago and I pray I will find a flight in Madrid in the morning to Paris.

On an odd note, and pertains to the subject line, I got official word today that the path I walked, the French way, is called Chemins de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. I have to say that I kicked Jacques ass. I walked on Jacque, not for him. Lindy would be proud (the irony is so thick with this). If you have done Lindy’s brain tumor walk in the past you get it!

I will never be able to say I will quit missing her. I trust God and Lindy to help me to do amazing things in my life. I wish I understood why she had to leave so early but I promise to always strive to keep her spirit alive. Amazing, Amazing, Amazing woman she was and still is. I how she is reunited right this second with her brother Greg, aunt Minnie and Izzy. She deserves the best in life and death.

I pray I really have found my “Way” to live with just your memory seeetheart.

I did it baby…for you.

Day 15: Ride Me Down Easy

“Hey ride me down easy Lord, ride me on down
Leave word in the dust where I lay
Say I’m easy come, easy go
Easy to love when I stay”
-WJ

What a great day. It’s my last night on The Way and tomorrow is the finish line! Hope to catch the noon pilgrim mass tomorrow in Santiago where they bless those that walked the distance. I am in Lavacolle at an Albergue with my new friends Simon and Claudia, both from Frankfurt Germany, and Yu a sweet Christian girl from China that currently resides in Australia.

Had an odd morning to say the least. Got up at 4 am after going to bed at 1:30 am. Made it to the Estación de autobuses by 4:45 am for my bus to Lugo. Had to catch another bus from Lugo, on a different bus line, to Azurea so I can start the second to the last days hike.

At the bus station in Lugo, I had an unexpected layover of 2 hours. It seems my next bus wasn’t coming till 9:30. Here I encountered a Jedi. Some drunkard at the cafe decided we should be friends. After getting my coffee, I walked to my table. He kept patting the opposite side of his table to motion me to sit across from him. “No gracious”, I said a dozen + times. He decided to bring his beer, smell and intellect over and sit with yours truly. I must have told him veinte times, “I no hablo español”. He sat down and touched my brain and his brain at the same time and spoke gibberish. He then begin to look at me with that “eye” that resembles the Larry David stare when he is trying to decide if he trust someone’s statement. This drunkard proceeded to appear to try and connect with me on some linear-time travel-mystic brain wave that he apparently mistakenly thought I would comprehend in lieu of “no hablo español”! After twenty minutes of this horse hockey, I told him I have to catch my bus. I went and checked my bag and was going to investigate Lugo for an hour to avoid this lunatic. I walked outside and the fog was so thick I couldn’t see my foot!

Went back to cafe and Darth Vader was ido. I drank another coffee, got on my bus and proceeded to Aruzea to start my final kilometers. Pulled into Aruzea about 11:15 am. Bought an authentic Camino walking stick and, well, walked!

I bought a wooden walking stick with St. James face on it and started down the road. Felt like the first day because I apparently, once again, lost “my way”! After 3 kilometers I was back on path. I intended to walk alone ( cue the Green Day song) as I wasn’t sure if this was my last walking day. I still needed time with my wife’s memories. “Only thinking the good times, hard to believe it’s really the end. Until one glad morning, at Heaven’s gates I’ll kiss you again”, I kept singing to myself all morning through a heavy heart. I really needed some time to air some more tears out. Really, eternity is probably not enough time.

At 1 pm I ate. At 1:30, I met Lucas from Poland and John from the Czech Republic. They appeared to be walking towards me like they lost something. When I pulled my ear plugs out to ask if they lost something, they said “no. we are walking the Camino backwards as we have already been to Santiago”. They proceeded to ask if I would look at their jewelry they made to see if I wanted some”. Donations only if you do!”. I am a sucker and bought 20 euros worth for gifts.

The walk today was like an episode of Groundhog Day set to the backdrop of the newest Robin Hood movie, as it was the same scenery over and over and over and over and over and over again at every turn! Really! I’m kidding because today was a beautiful walk in great weather while I contemplated what it will be like moving forward at home.

After walking alone 2/3rd’s of the day, I stopped to talk to some folks I passed and got passed by several times. I am really glad I did. I met Simon who is from Germany (26) and he is a pilot for Lufthansa. I also met his friend Claudia (26) who is a stewardess for the same airline. Great people and I am sooo glad we connected this evening. They had also made friends with an accountant from Australia, via China, who is on a year sabbatical, Yu.

We journeyed to the outskirts of Santiago to Lavancolle. We found two private rooms and had a tremendous dinner together along with great conversation. I definitely intend on staying in touch with these guys/girls. Great subjects of conversation were had tonight!

After a day in Santiago tomorrow, I will fly to Paris Monday for two days and fly home to face reality Thursday.

I pray I have found “My Way” and that the path in front of me is sustainable. As stated many times, I will not shed my final tear ever for the love of my life. I am very thankful for all she did, does and will continue to do for my life. The love affair is far from over.

I love you sweetheart. Buenas noches mi ángel

Day 14: Triple AAA Rated, 5 Star, First Class Hike, & Worldwide Bromance, Hoy!

Guys trip! I forged some good, temporal bonds last night in the Albergue over Paia and vino. Everyone there was in their mid-thirties except me, Bugard from Germany (53) and Jose from Bilbao, Spain (55).

We started the morning on another climb to the ancient Cross of Iron, the Cruz de Ferro, at the highest point of the Way. By my calculation, it was about another 1000 feet in a little deeper snow.

The Cruz de Ferro is where you place something that is symbolic of something that is weighing heavy on your mind. I placed a beautiful picture of Lindy and me from 2006 when we started getting a little more serious with each other, the first time:) I was rather moved as I climbed to the top of the mound and realized this is the first “thing” I am leaving in Spain as her remembrance. Jose hugged me as he saw big tears in my eyes. Mind you, neither of us really understand each others language.

The total mileage today was approximately 18 miles. If I thought the hike up was tough, I never thought twice that the hike down was twice as hard! It was a rocky road and my ankles hate me right now!

All the guys from the night before seemed to gather at the same stops throughout the day, like the Cruz de Ferro or, we would meet at random tiendas and watering holes.

Mateo, from Italy, Unai from the South of Spain, Marcella from Argentina stopped at the bottom of a 3000 feet decline for lunch in ciudad Acebo. We arrived at random times, and had lunch together and talked about how bad these ibuprofen are for me! We really hadn’t seen each other since Cruz de Ferro but, we seemed to always pick the same places to stop and recharge.

One by one the guys piled in for lunch as others made their exit to get back on the trail. In Acebo, I found myself playing with a local puppy, Lumi! Stuck around for 15 minutes playing with the puppy and talking to Marcella. Then I was off. It was here the snowy mountains started their transition to lower, dryer ground. By the time I reached Ambros I couldn’t see any snow on the ground at ‘tall. I detoured in Ambros to Parle de Francias, a little restaurante, off the beaten path. I fell victim to their billboard. I stopped for a coffee, 2 bottles of agua and to recharge my phone! God knows I can’t live without my phone!

As a side note, thank you Amber for the gift of the Gypsy Kings. I thank you and my ever growing iTunes account thanks you! They seem to always come on shuffle at the right time.

I continued my descent into Molinaseca. This is the coolest town yet. I was even greeted by the cutest dog. He came around the corner and sat down as I crossed the bridge as if he was saying, “welcome!” Again walked into the homeliest bar I could see and had a coffee. lo and behold, there sat Unai, Jose and Juan from Gijón. Two cups of coffee and one beer later, we proceeded to walk the last 8 km to our destination, Ponferrada. We all checked into St Nicolas Albergue and I immediately dropped my pack and went looking for the bus station. I walked the entire town for several hours before finding the bus station. Booked my ticket for 5:15 am to take me about 40 miles from Santiago. I have a flight out of Paris on the 6th that would have cost me the price of a Hyundai to change!

When I returned, all the guys from the night before and the day were waiting on me for dinner. I had to tell the guys I had to get a hotel (most Albergues won’t let you leave before 7am out of courtesy to the other pilgrims) so I can catch my bus.

They wanted to take Mateo to dinner since he has to leave the Camino on a bus tonight for personal reasons. What a send off, really for both of us. Big dinner. Lots of vino and tons of stories, as these guys had been traveling together for several days. Good way to leave in my own again mañana.

I am now in my hotel after tons of goodbyes and email exchanges.

If I don’t seem all with it, it’s because I am beat and feeling down and depressed right now. I lay here feeling more lonely than I have since the start of the walk. Next Wednesday will be a month since my Lindy made her journey to Heaven. I miss her.

Funny thing. My friend Sue, who lost her husband several years ago, told me to look for signs of communication from Lindy. When I placed that picture at Cruz de Ferro I picked up a random rock to mark the moment. As I pull it out of my pocket right now, I realize it is shaped like a heart.

I love you Lindy and I have shed enough tears to fill an ocean. I miss u more it seems everyday.