Wednesday, 26 July 2017

El Camino: Summary of the Portuguese Way

Porto












We started our spring walk in Porto, a gorgeous city of hills and brightly painted buildings with tiled murals and interesting shops and cafes along the Douro River. Worth at least two days.
Accommodations: Boutique hotel Oporto Near, a great combination of modern amenities and rustic elements not far from downtown.
Highlights:Old bookstore Livraria Lello. Clerigos Tower, Chapel of Souls, Sao Bento Railway Station. Sipping a drink along Cais da Ribeira. Port tasting on the Gaia side of the river.
Food and drink: Tapas. Flaming chorizo. Douro wine. Port. O Bolina and Taberna Manuel on opposite sides of the river. French toast at Majestic Cafe.
Stamp: Porto Cathedral
Suggestion: Walk from Porto to Matosinhos 8.4 km and stay there overnight.


Note: You need at least two stamps per day from Tui onwards to receive your final certificate in Santiago de Compostela. Most cafes, bars, churches and hotels en route will stamp your passport which must be obtained before you arrive.
Crossing the bridge in Matosinhos
April 28
Porto to Vila do Conde 24.7 kmTrain from Porto to Matosinhos. Walk across the bridge and down a long street to the waterfront. Turn right at the ocean front and walk along the sands and flowers and ancient shipbuilding villages with their brightly painted houses till you can't go any further.
Accommodations: Residencial Princesa Small older hotel, cheap, clean and comfortable. Excellent staff. Cafe next door for breakfast.
Food and drink: Tons of modern seafront cafes serving bocadillos and beer and coffee and ice cream along the route. Harbourfront restaurant for dinner. Octopus and risotto.

Stamp: Matosinhos Tourist Booth
Suggestion:Overnight at the small homestay "Sandra" at Vila Cha...so you don't have to walk so far the first day.
Senda Litoral, the seaside path
April 29
Vila do Conde to Sao Pedro de Rates. 15.6 km
We turned inland at this point although you can continue up the coast. Interesting walk out of town, especially the old aqueduct which has been hacked apart so the road and train can go through. For much of this walk, the waymarking was removed so we used Google maps which took us through some quaint lanes by some gorgeous houses and even right through a farmer's field to the country roads and paths to the village of Rates- a small and very tidy agricultural village of whitewashed homes with a charming and deserted church filled with flowers. One long cobblestone street up the middle.
AccommodationsAlbergue, an interesting old building with a very friendly staff and laundry and kitchen facilities. By donation. Several large rooms. Everyone asleep by 9:30. So much snoring. SO MUCH.
Food and drink: Nondescript pizza. Fish and chip dinner. Bottle of Douro from the local shop. Cafe up the hill for breakfast.
Stamp:  This albergue had the prettiest stamp of the trip!

Suggestion: Earplugs or noise cancelling headphones.
Rates
April 30
Rates to Barcelos 22.9 km
A pleasant walk, mostly on the back roads, past very nice houses and some farms and vineyards to the quaint city of Barcelos which was having a blow out "Festa das Cruces". Originally a religious festival but now several days of live music, markets, folk singers marching through the lit-up streets and more frivolity.


Accommodations; Modern albergue. More snoring. Beds pushed beside each other so you might get someone of the opposite sex sleeping inches away from you with their garlicky breath or cranky shushing.


Food and drink  Francesinha at Taberna M. A huge Portuguese sandwich of bread, cheese, meat, cheesy sauce and some kind of gravy. An amazing beer.

Suggestion: Book a room in advance and you can get a very pleasant hotel room for a reasonable rate. 
Broom on the doorways
May 1
Barcelos to Balugaes 20.23 km
Lovely walk through farms and vineyards and small villages, over a Roman stone bridge on the Labruja River. The broom was in blossom everywhere, just spectacular. Almost every house was decorated with a spring of yellow broom on the doorway, an April 30 tradition dating back to medieval times to keep the evil spirits at bay.


Accommodations: Casas da Quinta da Cancela, an ancient vineyard turned into a boutique hotel. We were upgraded to the 4 room suite that included an antique piano, four poster beds, a shrine to the Virgin and lovely stone window seats overlooking the vineyard as well as a relaxing courtyard with kitchen access to the honour bar with 8 euro wines.
Food and drink: Vinho verde. Excellent full breakfast in the Quinta's farm kitchen.

Suggestion:The Quinta serves dinner. We did not know that so we went to the tiny cafe in "town". There, we tried the "green wine". Not really green, actually white or red-but fresh and frothy and still fermenting in the bottle.
View from our rooms at La Quinta
May 2
Balugues to Ponte de Lima 18.9 km
Far and away the most beautiful walk of the trip. Flowers, forests, birds singing. The broom flowering in the hills. The pathways of ancient stone. 
Wonderful. Ponte de Lima itself is a gorgeous small town along the river with wonderfully restored buildings and delightful cafes and fountains and music playing.

Accommodation:Boutique Hotel Terraco da Vila A charming room with a view in the centre of town.
Food and Drink: Sangria at a cafe on the square near the bridge, Tapas and the best lemon meringue pie ever at Taverna Vaca Das Cordas
Suggestion: Stay longer.

Ponte de Lima
May 3
Ponte de Lima to Rubiaes 16.4 km

This was the hardest day of walking as you must ascend a steep hill through a pine forest. The sap from the pines is being collected, possibly for use in turpentine manufacture. The walk is more of a scramble over boulders than a proper path ending in a clearing at an old forestry station where there are great views.

AccommodationAlbergue Constantino Large rooms. The owner will drive you into town to his restaurant.
Food and Drink: Stop for lunch and water at the last stop before you begin the ascent. Great small bar in a farmyard after you descend, right before the "town" where everyone stops to celebrate their climb. Pilgrim's menu of delicious soup and pan-fried trout and potatoes at the albergue's inn.
Suggestion: Take your time. It's a steep climb but very do-able. 
On the path under the pines
May 4
Rubiaes to Tui 23.4 km
A good day of walking through pretty countryside. Valenca, on the Portuguese side, has a charming 13th century walled city with lots of quaint shops and cool historical sites with good views down the river. Tui Cathedral is worth the stop. The area around the cathedral is charming with lots of shops and cafes.
Valenca
Accommodation: Boutique hotel very close to the cathedral PensiĆ³n O novo Cabalo Furado  Really nice and quiet.
Food and Drink: Lots of restaurants and tapas places.  The most excellent Ideas Peregrinos, just down from the hotel, serves a great breakfast and sells some traveller's items.
Suggestion: Stay an extra day to see Valenca properly.
Early morning, Tui
May 5
Tui- Mos 21.5 km
An easy walk. Make sure to avoid the industrial area of O Porrino, which the guidebook calls a "soulless slog". The official path has been re-routed through parkland along a lovely river path. However many of the locals have removed the waymarking to direct foot traffic back to their cafes. You need to keep your eyes open through here!
Motion-activated shrine
Accommodation: Albergue Casa Blanca. A smaller and quieter albergue. Excellent sleep.
Food and Drink: The cafe across the street serves most pilgrims on the route. It's a very small place so everyone congregates in the same spot. Food was so-so but the visiting was good.
Suggestion: Mos is is a tiny town. If you can manage to go a bit farther to Redondela there is a nice old albergue there.
Under the broom
May 6
Mos to
 Arcade 17 km.
The walk was pretty at the start. Found a great cafe with a view for breakfast en route. Redondela is an interesting town with a few cool old buildings including a nice church, worth a good wander. Past the town you have to walk along the highway then down the hill to the ocean where the ancient town of Arcade lies. Once you get past the medieval bridge there are some interesting old stone houses. Very pretty. You will see many traditional horeos, elevated grain bins that are now a designated historic feature throughout the region.
View over the bridge from the cafe
 Accommodation: Highway Hotel San Luis Hotel A liitle over a km out of the town. Includes breakfast. There are other accommodations as you enter town which may be better.
Food and Drink: Great little bar just past the medieval bridge that serves light meals. Perfect for people watching. Arcade has renowned seafood restaurants and we ate a late and large dinner at Restaurant Veiramar
Suggestion: When the seafood platter says "minimum 2 people" it really serves 4.
Just past Arcade
May 7
Arcade to Barro  15 km
A nice walk through the old city of Pontevedra which has a great old city full of charming cafes where people don't get up until noon. A bit of this walk is along the highway but mostly through forest and village.
Accommodation: Portela Albergue is a deserted old elementary school next to a church. There is nothing else there. There is a beer fridge with 50 cent beers and wifi and laundry facilities and a chill courtyard to hang out in.

Food and Drink: There are two busy restaurants in the small town of San Amaro before you get to the albergue. The proprietors of the albergue cooked dinner for us. Spanish omelette, pasta with sauce, bread, salad and beer for 7 euros. Wonderful outdoor dinner with everyone sitting around the table outside. They provided breakfast for the morning as well.
Stamp: At the restaurants in San Amaro and the albergue.
A shared meal
May 8 
Barro to Padron 25.8 km  
A long walk today through some small towns and forest paths
Accommodation: Boutique Hotel A Casa do Rio (before Padron at Puentecesures)

Food and Drink: The food at the hotel hear sucked and it was pricey. Go into Padron or even the bar across the river
Suggestion: Go the extra couple of km to Padron which has lots of interesting sites and history.
Ulla River
May 9 
Padron to Picarana 12.3 km
A short walk with a bit of time in Padron which has a lot of cool things to see. Historic religious sights mostly. Then up through some farm land mostly paralleling the highway. The town here is mostly an industrial area with a few local bars and not much else. But we wanted to get to Santiago for the noon Pilgrim's Mass so that's how we timed it. There are more and more shrines and religious symbols as you get closer to Santiago.
Accommodation:Pension Gloriosa A large room, surprisingly quiet for its location. Our room faced the back with its fields and vineyards. A good place to rest up.

Food and Drink: Not much for food here. Pretty dull. There was supposedly a good bar/restaurant across the road but it was closed. 
Stamp: At the Pension Bar.
Oldest cross on the camino
May 10
Picarana to Santiago de Compostela 15 km  
Kind of a weird walk for the last bit.  First, along the highway in the dark and rain. Stopped for breakfast at a small inn. Then into the city which seems to go on forever. We took a shorter route that went through a park and through an old neighbourhood and over a big bridge and along some city streets. There are many bus tourists here. I guess there are many ways to make a pilgrimage. Lots of shops and cafes as befits a tourist destination.
In Santiago
Accommodation: Budget Hotel Plaza de Galicia. Our room had a wonderful balcony with a view over the rooftops.
Food and Drink:Great tapas at A Taberna do Bispo where we happily but unexpectedly met up with a Dutch couple from earlier in the trip.
Suggestion: Do not miss the Pilgrim's Mass at noon!  There are many other masses during the day but this is the one! You cannot take your pack or walking stick into the cathedral but you can leave it at your hotel or there is a left luggage area at the post office not far away. Stamp: Get your passport stamped at the official office. And get your official certificate saying you have walked!


Bom Caminho!



Friday, 21 July 2017

nothing has been taught until something has been learned



  • 71% of Canadians disagree with the Omar Khadr ruling.
  • Brian Jean professes equalization payments are unfair to Albertans, misleading his followers into thinking transfer payments come from provincial coffers.
  • Jason Kenney calls a university professor a "communist" after being asked simple questions about Gay Straight Alliances, what evidence he had that demonstrated right wing voices were being shut down at our post secondaries and where he would run as an MLA.
  • An editorial writer at my town newspaper, joining 5% of Canadians, states climate change isn't "verifiable science".
  • And let's not forget the 58,000 Albertans who signed a petition  not that long ago, demanding that the Lieutenant Governor ask for the Premier to step down.
It's a bleak and black time for teachers, as they recall their many pointless lessons on Charter Rights, transfer payments, the role of the citizen in a democracy, climate science, the role of the LG and how premiers are elected.

I mean, really. What are we doing in the classroom?  Just wasting our breath, it seems.  And if those lessons fell on deaf ears, what about all the others?

What about advocating for a healthy lifestyle?  What about their, they're, there? What about capitalization and punctuation and evolution and BEDMAS and computation and your times tables? What about nutrition and how to spell "a lot" and "measure twice, cut once" and what complementary colours are and what prejudice is and how to calculate interest rates and what the ventricle does and the laws of physics and human rights? What about basic probability and "i before e except after c" and using goddamn facts to support a position?

We've all worked with those kids who say "It's my opinion and you can't tell me it's wrong." 

Maybe an "opinion" isn't right of wrong in itself. But there is such a thing as truth. 

And this teacher ain't going down without a fight.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

In Defense of Millennials

Millennials get blamed for all kinds of stuff. Just do a search for "Millennials are..." and you will learn they are lazy, they are "the worst", and they are killing everything from golf to paper napkins to department stores to big banks to call centres to fabric softener to the diamond industry to packaged vacations.

In the recent UK elections, pollsters were stunned by the huge turnout of youth voters. Exit polls say a full two thirds of young voters supported Labour. The same polls found that the vast majority of older voters, those 65 and up, supported the Conservatives.

Here in Alberta, UCP hopeful Jason Kenney finds millennials disconcerting. After his own federal Conservative Party was trounced in Canada's 2015 election, and the now-less-than-progressive Conservative Party he leads were decimated in Alberta's election in May of that same year, he ponders why young people do not support his ideology.

Once again, millennials are blamed for killing something. This time it is conservatism.

Mr. Kenney suggests that today's youth are ignorant and entitled. He suggests because they did not live through the "catastrophic failure of socialism in the last century" they have no idea what it is and are therefore voting for it. He says that because they were "born into the highest standard of living in all of human history" they do not know adversity and think money flows freely from an ATM. He says they are foolish to support an increased minimum wage or a tuition freeze. Because that's bad for the economy.


Maybe if Mr. Kenney had attended public school in Alberta instead of private school in Saskatchewan, he would have learned something about ideologies. Maybe he would know the meaning of the word "socialism". Maybe he would know the difference between the scientific socialism of Karl Marx and the communism of Soviet Russia, the socialist market economy of China and the social democracy practiced in much of Europe, including Nordic nations which consistently rank highest for both happiness and freedom. Maybe then he could be more specific when he talks about the "catastrophic failure" of an ideology that he clearly does not understand.

Perhaps if Mr. Kenney had developed some critical thinking skills in school, he would use facts to support his position instead of erroneous assumptions.

Kenney was born not long after me. When I went to school, tuition at the U of A was $600 a year. I rented a 3 bedroom house for $415 a month. My parents estimated that a year of university, tuition, food and housing was about $3000. I made $8.50/hr at my summer job. Every single person I knew got a job when they graduated. I was offered jobs I hadn't even applied for. 


My youngest kid just completed his university education at the U of A- where one year in tuition and mandatory fees and books is now $9600. His shared apartment (on a year lease) was $600/month. Dorms and meals at Lister Hall are a mandatory minimum of $9300 for an 8 month term. His summer student income was $17/hr. In other words, the cost of that 8 month term at university is more than 6 times what it was when I went to school, while the typical student summer wage has just doubled.

My own millennial kids would tell those who seek to blame them for the death of diamonds and golf and vacations that they can't afford those things and they don't anticipate a future where that will change. They might also say they have a healthy respect for the environment which makes them consume less. And they would also tell him that after years of living on noodles and chickpeas in shared housing without owning vehicles or taking vacations, they clearly do understand what financial management is.

Millennials understand adversity. Not only did my kids live on poverty level wages while obtaining their education, they lived with the constant stress of not knowing if they would get work when they were done. Recent studies show that young people entering the workforce today earn far less than their parents did at the same age. In fact, it is believed millennials will be the first generation in history to earn less than the generation before them.  All of this adds up to a great deal of stress  According to some studies, 44% of millennials suffer from depression and suicide is one of the leading causes of death in this age category.

The real truth, when it comes to millennials is that the people of my generation and Mr. Kenney's generation implemented decades of austerity which have hurt today's young people, all with the idea "I can't afford to pay more taxes".  Is it any wonder they consider another approach?

By the next provincial election, millennials will make up 39 % of the electorate. Kenney and co. need to start offering them viable alternatives for their future if they want their vote instead of criticizing them and their legitimate worldview.



Monday, 12 June 2017

The Land that Sustains Us

Social Studies Lessons for Kenney Part 3

Shortly after my husband and I married, we backpacked throughout Southeast Asia. I relished seeing the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon and the Golden Temple in Bangkok. I loved travelling by boat over the Chao Phraya and seeing the Irrawaddy flow through the rice paddiies of Burma, as it was called back them. I was careful not to touch the monks in their saffron robes. 


Pagan, Burma
Part of my excitement stemmed from the teaching of my grade eight teacher Ydella Dulcetta. Daughter of an Australian who came to Canada to teach school, Ydella loved the classics and bitterly complained that her parents had forbidden her from studying in Rome. Her revenge was to learn and teach Latin and marry Joe, an Italian she had met on vacation. Her teaching style was based on rote learning and personal stories. She told stories about the characters from history and about her own life. At the beginning of every class a student would give a 10 question quiz on the course content. Whoever had the highest mark created the quiz for the next day. Today I can recite the names of the largest 5 islands of Indonesia in order of size and the religions, capital cities and principal rivers and chief exports of SE Asia. And I know more about the Dulcetta's home life than I probably have a right to.
On the Chao Phraya
In grade 9 Wayne Mould was my Social Studies teacher. We spent weeks designing the ultimate city. I loved his class. I felt deeply connected to the lands we studied.

Long before I was born, departments of education in much of Canada decided that Social Studies should be an interdisciplinary subject encompassing history, geography, law, politics, economics and the social sciences. Geography, sadly, has taken a back seat in our issues-focused Social Studies culture. It's unfortunate because I think everything begins with the land. The land sustains us. The land provides us with an economic base. The land shapes culture and interactions. 

Today, we think about "the land" especially in regard to our relationship to it. How closely are we tied to a particular piece of land? How do we treat it? Is it possible to "own" it? Why do treaties about the land matter? Who decides what activities should occur on it? Who cleans it up? What happens to all of humanity if it is damaged? We talk about it as something of particular significance to our First Nations brothers and sisters, but really, it is a tangible living thing that impacts us all. No matter what kind of "relationship" we have with the land, without it, we are nothing.


Near Fawcett, Alberta
When my daughter was in kindergarten, she came home crying one day. "What's the matter, Missy?"  I asked.  "Mademoiselle Cantin says we are killing the earth. And I love the earth!" A case of overkill for my over-sensitive daughter. But a lesson that cannot be taught often enough. 

Everything starts with the land. 

Monday, 29 May 2017

El Camino: What to Take

Some practical suggestions with thanks to Connie!

NOTE: You can stay in hotels which makes towel/sleeping bag unnecessary. You can hire companies to carry your bag forward if you really want to take a lot of stuff. You can even use a company that will book your accommodation and forward your bags.  That's one way to go. We didn't go that route. 


Backpack. Ditch that 2007 pack you bought to hike the Inca Trail. It might have been state of the art at the time but it isn't now. Get yourself over to MEC or Camper's or Atmosphere. Buy a pack that is really light and easy on the back. MEC calls these smaller bags "overnight" bags but you can get enough gear for your 10-15 days into the small bag if you do it right. Get the staffers to adjust the straps for you. You want a pack that is 35-40 liters in capacity. No larger. Seriously. One with pouches on the waistband, a side pouch for your water bottle, one easy-access top compartment and a waterproof cover.


With the old grey backpack that was ditched en route
Clothes Three changes should suffice although I took 5. One pair of shorts, one pair of capris, one pair of lightweight nylon pants, a longsleeved shirt, two sleeveless shirts and two t-shirts. Ok, I actually took 3 long sleeved shirts and ditched 2 of them. Take lightweight drip dry stuff since you will need to wash it and have it dry every second day. Some people sleep in their clothes. I think that is yucky. I took leggings for sleep time. Also a fleecy jacket and one of those super light down jackets you can stuff into a bag and the lightest breathable waterproof jacket you can get or a cheap poncho. The lightest you can get. Really important-good socks, like the light or medium weight PhD socks from MEC. Are you picking up what I am laying down? Go light!

A Belt  Because by the end your pants will be falling off.

Walking poles I found them indispensable. Ours were the Black Diamond ones that telescope down and click into place, not the "screw down and lock" kind. A German lady will tell you the metal tips make a clickety-clack the villagers don't like and you should buy the rubber tips like she has. In fact she will tell you the metal tips are illegal. You can get the rubber tips at MEC I believe. I liked the clickety clack so take that, cranky German lady! 

Sleeping bag. If you are staying at albergues (which I recommend for at least a few nights), they do not all have blankets, so if you go in spring (which I also recommend) it gets a bit chilly at night. Take the smallest and lightest sleeping bag you can find. Doesn't need to be warm. We had one from Camper's Village and found another at Atmosphere. If you go in late spring, summer or early fall, a sheet will do. You do not need a sleeping mat or air mattress.

Toiletries  Hairbrush. Folding toothbrush. Small toothpaste. Solid round shampoo in a square tin as sold by LUSH (doubles as laundry detergent). Small sunscreen. Small Purell. Antibiotic cream. Tiny sewing kit. Tweezers. Blister band-aids. Bring lots of those. Painkillers- I always take a combination bottle of aspirin, advil, mersyndol and naproxen with some benadryl for allergies. And some Imodium, just in case. Never used it though.

Towel The super absorbent kind that rolls into a teeny pouch. 

Toilet paper

Sunglasses

Footware  Hiking boots- I have a wonky ankle so I bought boots with a lot of ankle support . Most of you won't need that. Make sure they roomy as you feet may swell and they will take a beating. One guy we met said his feet hurt every day. BREAK THOSE BOOTS IN!  I thought I had by walking 3 km every day for 10 days, but you should really walk with your fully loaded pack for a good 10 km at least twice.  Otherwise you could get blisters like I did. Plus lightweight shoes or sandals because after 20 km, you need to remove those boots. I had a pair of super light Skechers and hubby took his Birkenstocks.

Electronics  Some people don't take a camera, but we love taking photos and a camera phone doesn't cut it. But I would consider a smaller, lighter camera that could go in the waistband of the backpack. Phone. Get yours unlocked and buy a SIM card that is good for Spain and Portugal. You can get a good plan with lots of data for cheap at the airport or any cellphone shop.  We went with Orange. Sometimes access to Google Maps is needed, or your phone for that matter. Kindle. Travel adapter. Cordless multiple outlet extension device so you can recharge multiple items at once. No more chargers than absolutely necessary.

Headlamp For those early morning getaways. Some people used their camera flashlight.

Waterbottle  Light plastic, large.

Large ziplock bags Just because.

Hat  One with a large brim as the sun is intense.

Pilgrim's Passport. Also called a "credencial." Order it online from the Canadian Company of Pilgrims. You will need to stay in the albergues and you will need to get it stamped with a "sello"  twice a day for the last 100 km at albergues, bars and cafes and churches along the route in order to get your compostela at the end. It is fun to collect the stamps as each one is unique.

Guidebook The Germans used a yellow guidebook called "Outdoor:The Way is the Goal". There are lots of others. We used John Brierley's Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino Portugues. A must have.

Weird thing we took and would take again  Tiny projector. We have one the size of a deck of cards that connects to your phone. We watched movies on it, including The Way with Martin Sheen.

What we should have taken: Noise cancelling headphones or earplugs for the snoring in the albergues.

What we should have left behind: The Ipads. The numerous electronic chargers. The sweat-inducing crappy waterproof jacket.  A skirt. Some dressy shoes my hubby carried and I never wore. The umbrella. The bathing suits.  

Oldest cross on the camino

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

El Camino: Why Walk the Portuguese Way

I love to travel. But I rarely tell anyone to go to the places I have been.

For the Portuguese Way of the El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, I will make an exception. 

You should go.

If you have a passport and you can scrape together the airfare and have 15 days of vacation and you can walk 10 km a day, you should go.

You should go for the solitude and the companionship. You should go for the rest and for the exercise. You should go for the simple pleasure of going to bed each night physically exhausted. You should go to be alone with your thoughts and go to share them with others. You should go for the surprises that lie around each corner. The scenery that will stop you in your tracks over and over again every day. The walled medieval cities and the sleepy villages and the arched bridges and the seaside paths and the wide valleys and the forested mountains and the neighbours chatting by their gates. The ancient stone walls covered in moss and the grapevines unfurling in the vineyards and and the burbling streams and the early morning dew on the newly planted fields and the sun on the lemon trees and the spring flowers and the hills of yellow broom and the overgrown ruins of abandoned homes. The cobblestones leading to charming boutique hotels and rustic albergues. The most magnificent of cathedrals and the tiniest of roadside shrines. Go to see all these things you can only see when you walk.

Go for the green wine and the tiny beers and the espresso and the pastries and the octopus and the trout and the substantial free snacks. Go for the tapas and the three course pilgrim's menu. 

Go to renew your soul and go to remind yourself of what matters. 

Go because you want to walk your own way and go because there are many who will help you find the path. 

Go to feel solidarity with the generations who walked before you and those who will follow in your footsteps. 

Go to prove to yourself you can.

Just go.



Thursday, 18 May 2017

Sagrada Familia

The light stops you in your tracks. Warm and joyous, sunshine through the red and yellow stained glass floods the immense space in the afternoon light. If you were there in the morning, the light from the opposite windows would stain the air cool blue and green.



But you are there in the afternoon. The light envelopes you. Your eyes are drawn upwards by the massive tree like pillars. As if you are in a magical forest with alabaster columns supporting a magnificent canopy of stone high above your head. So high, you cannot believe the ceiling stands with so little visible support in this vast space.




A small girl stands in the transept holding an Ipad. "It's St. Jordie's Day, Nana! All the girls give their boyfriends roses and their girlfriends give them books! There are roses everywhere!" She pivots excitedly to show her grandmother the church. I catch a glimpse of Nana's smile and I am struck by inexplicable emotion. I turn away from their moment- so intimate and so public.

La Sagrada Familia. The Holy Family. The church astounds you inside and out. It is Gothic and at the same time modern. The artistry and craftsmanship and the mathematical genius of its construction. From the ornate Nativity facade, covered in detailed and delicate carvings to the austere, almost fascist Passion facade that depicts the sacrifice of Christ with a spare brutality.

Decades ago I visited Glastonbury Abbey with my family. It took centuries to build. Once glorious, it now lies in ruins. "Imagine," said my mom. "Imagine working on something your entire life and knowing you would never see what it looked like when it was finished. That's faith."

Gaudi spent the better part of his life working on La Sagrada Familia. He was 73 when he died in a streetcar accident, the church just one quarter finished. Although he made detailed plans for his church, he knew he would never seen the final product which has an estimated completion date of 2026. 

What would Gaudi think today? Could he have known that the holy temple of his imagining would become a tourist attraction rather than a place of worship, visited by millions of people of all religions? Shared by a child with her grandmother in another land via technology? Or did he simply trust that the end result of his labours would be worth his sacrifice?  

Who among us can ever know what the end result of our work will be? Whether you are an architect, a teacher or a parent, it's impossible to know if your life's work will end up as an awe-inspiring basilica or a pile of rubble. Yet you get up every day and put one foot in front of the other and keep going. 

That's faith.