A Sexier Ass in 30 days? That’s a Given, Baby – Why the Camino Bestows an Allure that Lasts all Winter.

walking uphill

My ass was in excellent condition when I finished the Camino del Norte this summer. I was leaner, with toned legs and “a bit of colour” – which is as sun-kissed as someone with decidedly northern european colouring can manage without flirting with a melanoma or suchlike.

But it’s true that summer’s lease hath all too short a date, and my fleetingly toned thighs and rear have given way to flabbier, more pallid self (or “the real me” as any acquaintance might recognise).

But the Camino’s sexiness bestowing powers are more than skin deep!

So here are 5 sexiness enhancing attributes that will last you long into winter:

1. Improved fluency in other languages

Language learning can be a bit sexy, or make you an enormous arse (not of the sexy toned kind). If you are one one of the webs growing community of language learners, you might wish to flex some lingual muscle chatting to some of the many nationalities on the camino.

Walkers are still predominantly Spanish, and if you’re looking for some low cost hispanic immersion, you can definitely find it here. The Ruta del Norte still isn’t as commercial as the French Way, and 30 days of café con leche and the odd caña will certainly give you a solid “holidaymaker’s level”.

Following the publication of French intellectual, Jean Christophe Rufin’s “Immortelle randonée, Compostelle malgré moi” there are a fair number of Frenchies to be found en-route, so learners of the language of Voltaire won’t be disappointed either.

Avoid being an enormous arse by 1) not making prior assumptions about any one person’s level of any given language and 2) being courteous with those who wish to practice their English with you.

2. Amigos Internacionales

On the french route much is made of “a camino family”, a concept I find frankly claustrophobia-inducing (anybody with me on this?). The Camino del Norte offers a more gentle camaraderie on the level of a facebook friend. Return with tales of “your new family” and your mates will think you’ve joined a cult. Return with a scattering of potential European coffee dates and you will instantly seem enchantingly more mondaine.

3. An Enviable Instagram Feed

The millennials are sexy on and offline. I was born in 1980 and as such missed the party by a whisker (very much my general style), my brother, only 18 months younger, is a child of the age of IT.

What makes instagram so annoying, are of course the captions: “enjoying a coffee in Bilbao #caminodesantiago”. Forgo this level of banality. Tell people “yeah, I’m just using it as as sort of visual diary”, and post a date and the hashtag. This alone is more difficult than it sounds as both wifi and plugs can be at a premium.

The occasional, well curated yellow arrow tells a story. Don’t snap ’em all.

Alternatively do snap ’em all. Every last one of the bastards. Geotag and provide a detailed description of each one. You’ll be walking for two extra weeks (at least), but some news media outlet will take up the story of one walker’s obsession with yellow paint.

This should not need said but: DO NOT POST PICTURES OF YOUR FEET.

4. Real or Imagined Survival Skills

But predominantly imagined ones. The important thing is that you survived in the Spanish wilderness with only a flick-knife  some safety pins and your credit card. And that card was NOT accepted at all local retailers.

To your friends in an office in Luton, you might as well be Bear Ghrylls.

5. Profound Insights and Wisdom from this Mediative Experience.

Nietzche, Kant, Bear Grylls, that French one (see above), Dickens, Orwell and Ray Mears .

Many great thinkers and writers are great walkers. Thankfully, and the human brain is better at lazy association than an imagined venn diagram where you are placed within in the “walkers but not thinkers” crescent.

Step after step on the white stones on the forest floor, being buffeted in a costal crosswind or sheltering from a torrential downpour under one of those charming Galician grain shelters, it would be easy to think you were contemplating the greater matters in life, and it’s in the interests of your sexiness that you cultivate this. “I’m running out of Compeed*”, “I think I left my towel in the last albergue” or “I hope that snoring guy isn’t there tonight” don’t have the same pulling power.

My own most profound insight from the Camino was that Paulo Coelho’s the Alchemist is a reliable and powerful “screening question” at parties. “I totally love that book” should provoke a sudden, and urgent need for a trip to the toilet.

*other blister plasters are available, but none are as good.

Culinary discovery on the Camino

  
A walk through the Spain’s North Coast with an unlimited food budget would be a discovery indeed. The Spanish culinary Renaissance is in full swing and the Michelin guide has been complementary in it’s sprinkling of stars over this region.

For the moment, I’m better placed to review relative prices of jars of chick peas in Carrefour and Dia supermarkets.

That’s not to say that there aren’t revelations to be had. The other day I discovered that it’s possible to guzzle non-liquid foodstuffs (chocolate raisins… 2 packets) and that under the right conditions (no other food for 20k) the proteinacious brine surrounding beans can be surprisingly tasty in and of it’s self. I don’t think the palates at Michelin have anything to worry about.

I first saw this contraption at Castillo, walking from Laredo to Güemes. It seems to aerate the drink, adding, I’m told, to ‘El sabor’. Very nice it is too.

Santander and the midday sun

  
New strategy: the midday drawing. 

This is a bit risky because the camino del Norte is proving popular this year and albergues are filling up. Today I’ve phoned to reserve at a private albergue for the first time as otherwise there would be a 39 km hike between two public ones. I would be pushing my right at my limits with that – especially in the sun. 

La Catedral, Urban Coffee is the sort of place where you know that you’ll be overcharged for the coffee. Their cheesecake, however, is worth the hit. 

I don’t really do baked cheesecakes but I heard some other customers raving about it. The waiter concurred and promised it would be muy rico. It has a thin layer of quite tasty raspberry jam, and wasn’t too clawey. The coffee lasted considerably longer than the cake.

Coast

My constant companion on the Ruta del Norte is the Atlantic Ocean and I wanted to get some practice in with waves and the sea, to try too early away from a symbolic shorthand.

I’m getting better at fitting in some drawing in my walking day, and hope to get to some actual coastal scenes.  
 This was a quick attempt at an evening scene at Pobeña, although I didn’t implement any of my waves practice.

Deba: The Steep City

  
It’s a steepness we are thankfully spared at the end of the day. An elevator in the street drops us around 7 floors, and another by around 5 to town level, where we stay in a well converted station building. An excellent albergue, which could have more clothes drying space! (Where is Albergueadvisor !?)

This is a15 minute sketch of the Iglesia de Santa Maria in the historic (and only) centre. Crowds gathered outside in black, too ‘alegre’ for a funeral and turned out to be musicians preparing for a concert in the nave. The conductor was an especially expressive chap.

A delicious slice of Morroco in Spain

 
 Thank you Cafe Alsafir (Calle Castillo de Maya, 39. Pamplona).

Twelve and a half hours of changing scenery and family friendly movies have brought me to Pamplona, home of the controversial San Fermìn bull running extravaganza. I’m no expert but I recon British health and safety would make pretty short shrift of it: see example gougings and crushes here.

I’m just passing through though and on a ration of tapa sized tortilla, pisto and 2 peaches, sightseeing was not a priority.

I’d walked by, discounting a Marrocan style meal, usually heavy on the kebabs (from my Andalusian experience) but was powerless to resist the aromas of coffee , cloves and mint following me with the warm breeze.

I was looking for a small but filling plate which wouldn’t be too heavy before sleeping. The waitress recommended the €3 ‘potato salad’. A revelation in taste! Potato, green olives, a shallot (it could have been a mild, pink onion, I’m not great on my alliums), olive oil and a dusting of paprika! Not a large serving , but more substantial than a typical tapa – exactly what I was looking for. I couldn’t identify any other ingredients and yet it was a taste masterpiece. 

I’m the sort of person who likes to finish a meal with a coffee – the Arabic coffee served was DIVINE. The scent lingers with me, and I feel all the more exotic for it! So with a soft drink it set me back €7 in total. If your camino is heading through Pamplona and you can stretch your food budget just a smidge, consider a short respite from some of the camino staples and treat yourself!

The drawing tonight was a slightly secondary affair but ups and downs with the drawing, the path and life!