Camino Sanctuary in Brussels

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A very clear Camino marking on the outside of the Our Lady of Refuge Church in Brussels, Belgium.

If you’re a Camino pilgrim who happens to be walking around town in Brussels, you’re in for a little Camino surprise. There are signs of the Camino de Santiago all over. Not only are there scallop shells embedded in the cobbles there, but there is also a church once dedicated to pilgrims. When in Brussels, seek out OUR LADY OF REFUGE CHURCH. It is the hub of Brussels Camino heritage.

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Quite often I find inexplicable statuary in the churches of Europe. No explanation plaque, no clue as to why this little imp of a thing was sitting in the Camino church of Brussels.

When I was there 2 years ago today, I received a handout that read,

“It was once (12th century) a chapel named after St. James and depending of a hospital stood there. In this hospital, built against the first surrounding walls of the city, nearby, a gate placed under the saint’s patronage, pilgrims were housed, as they were coming from the North of Europe and going along this way to Camino de Compostela.”

Inside the church, I lit candles for my mother and my fellow Camino peregrino, Connie. Both had passed about a year prior to my visit. I originally wrote about my 2014 pilgrimage with Connie in THIS POST HERE on my author website.

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Lighting candles in memory of my mother and Camino friend…

 

 The inside of the Camino church. (-:

It was an absolute thrill to find and follow the scallop shells throughout the streets of Brussels. The Camino always finds you, always calls you back and waves hello. If you ever get to the beautiful Grand Place plaza in the heart of Brussels, look around. You will find a shell. Follow it.

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There it is! Inviting, welcoming, enticing. A warm invitation to all pilgrims.

 

Even St. James himself can be found in Brussels!

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Alaskan Pilgrim Shares Best Tips for Gear and Packing…

I finally had the chance to watch the remainder of the series on walking the Camino de Santiago by the Youtube user Alaskan Pilgrim (Jeanee). You really should check it out. It continued to be a wonderful series, all the way to the end of the pilgrimage. Though she had some ordeals along the way, she never lost her joie de vivre or sense of adventure and excitement. It was a real treat to watch and I’ll confess I teared up as she made her way into the plaza in Santiago de Compostela. Remembering that moment and seeing others experience it will always move me to tears. That was a watershed moment in my life, taking those last few steps into that plaza.

If you keep the AUTOPLAY feature going, the very next video that comes up after Finisterre is a gear and packing video by Alaskan Pilgrim. Or, well…let me make it easy for you. I’m linking to the packing video too. I thought it was really well done. Though the shoe talk doesn’t pertain to my experience (I’ll be attempting the Camino barefoot this time–and bringing a pair of sandals for a backup), I think I may now pick up some walking sticks once I hit the ground in Spain this September. I think I’ll finally give them a go.

Enjoy Jeanee’s packing tips…and keep in mind that she made this video AFTER her Camino. So she knows what she’s talking about from personal experience. (-:

A Sunday of Earthing and Forest Bathing

Yesterday, I met up with my friend and Camino guide, Sue Kenney. Sue was leading a workshop on Earthing. I saw my opportunity and I jumped at the chance.

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Sue Kenney

Sue Kenney is a barefooter. Though I’ve loved being barefoot since childhood, I kind of lost touch with the joy it brought. I reconnected with it on the Camino de Santiago in 2014, and plan to walk the Camino again in September with bare feet. Or, at least, cover quite a few of the miles barefoot. Not only does it connect us to the earth and give us a sense of freedom and childhood joy, but it’s also good for you. Sue talked a lot about the benefits of barefooting yesterday. She also covered the benefits of forest bathing and earthing. If ever you get the opportunity to work with Sue, you should definitely dive in. As well as barefooting, which she has done for a good many years now, Sue is also a newly accredited Wim Hof instructor. You can read all about both of her passions and much more HERE.

I just wanted to share some photos today from yesterday’s workshop.

Don’t be afraid to step outside without your socks and shoes, even if it’s just to feel the grass between your toes for a few seconds. You don’t have to trek barefoot across a country to feel the benefits and the joys of having the earth beneath your feet. Baby steps will take you there.

Alaskan Pilgrim Walks the Camino de Santiago

When I first started this blog, I had intended to find just the right Youtube documentary of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage to share. This week, after watching dozens and dozens of great videos, I found the perfect one to share. The Youtube user is Alaskan Pilgrim. The peregrina walks from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France to the end of the Camino Frances pilgrimage route. Side-note: Did you know Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port translates to Saint John [at the] Foot of [the] Pass? St. Jean is at the foothills of the Pyrenees, where the Camino Frances begins.

I chose this particular series to share because it’s raw, honest, and filled with joy and love for the path. Just what I was looking for. As much as the Camino is VERY OFTEN a splendid trek through beautiful countryside that takes your breath away, it is also at times a very tiring and soul-testing journey. The Alaskan pilgrim in this series of short documentaries that follows her daily journey across the pilgrimage route in Spain tells the truth with an open heart. She details her suffering, which is an important thing to understand about the Camino…but she does it with a smile. It’s great to see her sense of wonder for–and love for–the Camino while she simultaneously tells us about her aches and pains. Not to mention her encounter with bedbugs. The love for the experience shines through even in her darkest days.

I knew this was the Youtube series I would share when the heart-rocks began to appear. I have a heart-rock of my own that I will be bringing to the cross at Cruz de Ferro. I always look for them, too. I found this one on Black Stone Beach in Aruba a couple of years back and have been saving it for my next Camino pilgrimage. It’s black and it’s in the shape of a heart. It also has a little red spot on it. I’ll be leaving it at the cross at Cruz de Ferro in memory of my mother, who coincidentally passed away 3 years ago today. When I saw the heart-rocks popping up in these videos, I knew right away these were the ones I would share here. Also, she’s just so lovely and honest and in touch with the joy the Camino brings its pilgrims.

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The heart-stone I found on Black Stone Beach in Aruba. Notice my Camino ring?! I picked that up in 2014 after my first Camino, in a little jewelry store just around the corner from the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

If you turn on the AUTOPLAY feature on Youtube prior to watching the first episode, the rest of the episodes should play in the proper order. Otherwise, just remember the username ALASKAN PILGRIM to search for new episodes. Enjoy these wonderful videos and, should you ever take up the call of the Camino de Santiago…Buen Camino, peregrino!

Earthing Workshop with Sue Kenney!

For those interested: This coming Sunday, my 2014 Camino Guide and friend, SUE KENNEY, will be leading a free EARTHING WORKSHOP in Toronto’s west-end.

The workshop is hosted by Sue’s company BAREBOTTOM SHOES (shoes for people who walk barefoot).

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This is one of my favourite pictures of Sue Kenney. I took this just prior to our arrival at Monte do Gozo (HILL OF JOY!) along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain in May 2014.

EARTHING WORKSHOP WITH SUE KENNEY

Come out and discover the benefits of our Great Mother Earth. Learn all about Earthing with Sue Regan Kenney who is collaborating with Saje Wellness​ Sherway Gardens. We will meet at Tom Riley Park in Toronto on April 28th. We will start off the workshop in our shoes/boots and plan to try some barefooting in the forest! Bring a friend and please feel free to share this with others who you know want to get back to nature.

Date & Time: Sunday, 28 April 2019 from 12:30-15:00 EDT

Location: 3214 BLoor Street West, Toronto, Ontario

This is a free event, but you can register online on the Facebook Event Page HERE.

 

Throwback Thursday to May 2014

Buen Camino!

My last Camino was in May 2014. For #ThrowbackThursday I thought I would share a few pics. I’m so looking forward to seeing these and many more sights when we walk the Camino de Santiago together this coming September!

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The delectable Padrón Peppers of the Camino de Santiago! Just wait until you try these delicious peppers! My mouth waters just thinking about them.

Depending on the time of year you make your Camino, the fields are sometimes resplendent with poppies. If you walk around May, be prepared for fields of red! If you miss their season, though, don’t despair. You’ll find a great variety of flowers along the Way.

On the Camino, you often get this overwhelming sense that everything is beautiful…even those things that are withering with age and falling to ruin. Whether the houses are majestic in stature or crumbling, their beauty abounds. Since I have come back, I have seen more pictures of the white house on the top right than I can count.It’s probably one of the most photographed houses on the Way.

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Along with yellow arrows and mile-markers, pilgrims will also see these shells embedded in the ground every now and again. In fact, I found these same shells all over Brussels when I was there in 2017. There is a deep presence of the Camino there. This one is from the Camino Frances, taken in 2014.
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When I walked in May I saw many signs of spring. Baby livestock everywhere. Say hello to this little lamb!
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HINT: When you get to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, you are not done! You must climb upwards! Did you know there are tours of the cathedral ROOF? Don’t miss out on the beautiful vistas of Santiago. The rooftop experience is a pure delight.

The landscapes of the Camino are BREATHTAKING! Such big sky. Such vast open spaces that go on endlessly.

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You will constantly find gifts along the way. Whether they be benches for a brief but much needed rest, or a ribbon tied to a tree with an inspirational message on it to help you to keep moving forward…the Camino provides. You will find what you need when you need it.
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The statuary, the sanctuaries, the churches, the crosses, the Virgin Marys and the candles… you will find it all. The Camino de Santiago is first and foremost a religious pilgrimage. Whether or not you’re religious, you will find beauty in all that the churches along the way have to offer.
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A view from the rooftop of the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

If the Camino is calling you, listen. Heed the call. You won’t regret it. There is beauty in every footfall. It is not always an easy journey, but it is a breathtaking one that you will take with you forever.

Buen Camino!