An Armchair Journey Through the Backroads and Mountains of France and Spain

Book Title: Two Steps Forward

 Author: Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist

Cover Image of Two Steps Forward by Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist
Source: Text Publishing

Promotional Blurb: A smart, funny novel of love, self-acceptance, second chances and blisters. Two misfits walk 2 000km along the Camino to find themselves and, perhaps, each other.

Zoe, a sometime artist, is from California. Martin, an engineer, is from Yorkshire. Both have ended up in picturesque Cluny, in central France. Both are struggling to come to terms with their recent past – for Zoe, the death of her husband; for Martin, a messy divorce.

Looking to make a new start, each sets out alone to walk two thousand kilometres from Cluny to Santiago de Compostela, in north western Spain, in the footsteps of pilgrims who have walked the Camino for centuries. The Camino changes you, it’s said. It’s a chance to find a new version of yourself, and a new beginning. But can these two very different people find themselves? Will they find each other?

In this smart, funny and romantic journey, Martin’s and Zoe’s stories are told in alternating chapters by husband-and-wife team Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist. Two Steps Forward is a novel about renewal – physical, psychological and spiritual. It’s about the challenge of walking a long distance and of working out where you are going. And it’s about what you decide to keep, what you choose to leave behind and what you rediscover along the way.

Optioned for film by Ellen DeGeneres. Source

A camino shell tile on a granite wallMy Thoughts:  This is one for the camino walkers or the ‘camino curious’. Rather than a super-factual walking guide to the Camino in Spain, it couches the trials and tribulations of long-distance walking in the ebbs and flows of a fictional new relationship.

Martin and Zoe have an inauspicious meeting in Cluny, central France before they set out independently to walk South and South-west towards Santiago de Compostela. Zoe intends her final destination to be St Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees while Martin intends to walk all the way to Santiago de Compostela.

What their intentions are and what actually happens are two completely different stories.

I have read Simsion’s work before and did not really enjoy it and, if it the book wasn’t about walking a camino, I would never have grabbed it out of the bargain bin of my local Op Shop.

Camino first, quality writing second!

However, my estimation of him went clear through the roof when I read the jacket blurb to reveal that both he and his wife walked the Chemin/Camino from Cluny to Santiago de Compostela, not once, but twice!  That is around 2 038km over 87 days – twice! All of a sudden these authors had street cred! Or serious walking cred!

I may be a little judgmental, but the fact that both authors had experienced these paths firsthand meant that their writing had a little more authenticity. They had walked the endless hard days and enjoyed the warmth of new friendships and deep conversations.

This is your captain speaking memeThis book will appeal to people who have walked the Camino and wish to reminisce about the Le Puy, del Norte or Primitivo paths. It will also appeal to people who would like an entertaining introduction to caminos in Spain or those who just enjoy a light read.

Prior to the Covid19 pandemic, I was due to fly to Spain to walk the Primitivo (plus a couple of other lesser known paths). I have also long dreamed of walking the del Norte route and now, I have the Chemin from Cluny to add to the wish list.

One of these days we will be allowed to travel internationally again and these dreams can come true.

This is a pleasant, easy read. Not world-beating literature, but it rolls along at a steady pace – a bit like a day’s walk – and the vast variety of characters are appealing and credible.

It is not good for those of us with itchy feet! I gave it 7/10.

Graeme Simsion. Source: Text Publishing
Graeme Simsion. Source: Text Publishing

Author bios: Graeme Simsion is the internationally bestselling author of The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect and The Best of Adam Sharp.

Anne Buist is the Chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne. She has thirty years’ experience in perinatal psychiatry, and works with the legal system in cases of abuse, kidnapping, infanticide and murder. Her Natalie King: Forensic Psychologist series of thrillers are published by Text.

Anne Buist. Source: Text Publishing
Anne Buist. Source: Text Publishing

Author websites: www.graemesimsion.com and www.annebuist.com

Pages:  353

Published: 2017

Publisher: Text Publishing

Available from: Book Depository (from AUD$23.87)

#travelreads  #caminofrances #theway #caminoprimitivo #caminodelnorte #armchairtravel #walkinginfrance #caminodesantiago

 

5 Gorgeous YouTube Clips to Inspire You to Walk a Camino in Spain

A brass shell inlaid in the footpath on the Camino FrancesWe have had a lot of time this year to sit back and think about our lives and how we may live them differently in the future. My wanderlust remains strong and once bans are lifted and it is safe, the first thing I will be doing will be to book my ticket to Madrid, Spain.

Here are five YouTube clips that I hope will communicate the joy of walking in Spain, the wonderful people you meet along the way and the sheer pleasure of being outside in Nature.

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An Online Walking Encyclopedia

The thought of walking 1 000km across a foreign country could be considered a tad daunting. The body and spirit are willing, but the head says, “you’ve got to be kidding!!”

To get all your senses on board, you need cold hard facts, a good dose of wisdom and a sprinkle of philosophy.

Introducing – an internet forum dedicated to walking the camino.

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Tell Me Where To Go!! The Travel Bucket List.

For those people who don’t know me well, I am a planner and an organiser. Yes, I would like to be more chilled and ‘go-with-the-flowish’, but after 50-odd years on this earth, I have found that approach just doesn’t work for me. I need goals and I need exciting things on my horizon to keep me motivated and interested.

istanbul-xpatnation-com
Aya Sofya, Istanbul, Turkey. Source: xpatnation.com

Many years ago I developed an aversion to birthdays. Not that I despised getting older, although who wouldn’t want to turn the clock back a tad, it was just that I would look back on the previous 12 months and wonder, ‘where did that go’ and ‘what did I achieve’?

Most times I felt like I had accomplished a big, fat nothing. This was inaccurate and no way to think about my life, so I decided to change. Each birthday I would sit down and set myself some small challenges for the next 12 months. Then, I would stick this list, big and bold, on my fridge door. This provided no end of amusement for visitors to my house, but more importantly it kept me honest and kept me focused. Subsequent birthdays were greeted with slightly less trepidation, and a degree of excitement, as I set myself even more ambitious goals.

Without wishing to be morbid, I am now at a stage in life with more years behind me than in front, and it is time to really ‘up the ante’ on the goal-setting front.

Yes, the list is back on the fridge door, and as a sign of the times, it is now termed a ‘Bucket List’. Perhaps this is a poor choice of words, and I do not plan on going anywhere soon, except to remarkable, exotic overseas and Australian destinations.

I am always open to suggestions and here, in no particular order, is the Bucket List so far:

  • mississippi-river-trail-map_655317
    Map of the Mississippi River Trail, USA

    The Mississippi River Trail: A cycle route that starts in Lake Itascain Minnesota, USA, and finishes near the mouth of the river in Venice, Louisiana. It covers 3 600miles (5 794km), using the Mississippi River as the common theme or motif. In the past, the USA was never really high on my travel wish list mainly because the cultural contrast was not significant enough. However, this trip has captured my imagination because of the many states we will pass through – their different climate, architecture, history, scenery and accents. Yes, it will take us around three months, but what a way to experience a country.

  • Trans-Siberian Railway: This adventure has been on The Brave Man’s* wish list for quite some time. Not as energetic as the first bucket list entry, but no less fascinating. I understand the best ways to tackle this one are to either book on a guided/organised tour or get some assistance with booking tickets and accommodation. Happy to take suggestions on the best ways to approach this adventure.
  • Flower market, Guwahati.
    The vibrant colours of India. Source: incredibleindia.org

    India: How do they cram so much chaos, colour and culture into one five-letter word? The thought of the scale of the population in India frightens the pants off me, but I am busting to get there to experience such their vibrant culture. I am not brave enough to do this solo or via independent touring so I am currently researching cost-effective and well-regarded tours that will give me a small insight into this country. Fingers crossed, I get to tick this one off the list in 2017.

  • Turkey: Has always been lurking on the list since we had a short visit to the Marmaris region back in 2003. I loved the collision of Asian, European and Middle Eastern culture and history. We found the people incredibly friendly, and the architecture and arts fascinating. To be on the safe side, we will wait until the dust settles a bit in that region before venturing over. As an aside, there is a 509km walk called the Lycian Way that follows the Turkish coast line from Fethiye to Antalya. Perhaps we could incorporate that stroll into a visit?
  • tourism-laos
    Monks line up to collect alms. Source: Tourism Laos

    Trains Through Asia: I am not sure if you have come across The Man in Seat 61? He has to be world’s largest train nut, and what a wonderful resource he has created for rail-travel fans. The loose plan is to fly into Singapore and then train (and bus where necessary) north through Malaysia, Thailand and finishing in Luang Prabang, Laos. Again, a fantastic way to experience a variety of Asian cultures, move slowly through the changing countryside, and meet the locals.

  • Houseboat Trip on the Hawkesbury River: This one is much closer to home, and probably the shortest travel adventure. I have always thought a houseboat, a bit like the canal boats in England and France, would be a relaxing and different way to ‘play tourist’. The Hawkesbury River is one of the main rivers that forms a rough border on the northern side of the Sydney basin. Only three hours from home but a world away from the chaos of Sydney.
  • Camino del Norte: The Bucket List would not be complete without another camino
    del-norte
    The route of the Camino del Norte in Spain.

    thrown into the mix. This walk starts at Irun, near the border of France, and follows the Spanish coastline until you cross into the province of Galicia, then turning south-west towards Santiago de Compostela. This is a tough walk apparently, due to the mountainous terrain, so we had better start training now!

  • Overseas Volunteering: We also plan to spend some time giving back. With The Brave Man’s* extensive education skills, and my bag of tricks, perhaps we can make a small positive difference to someone’s life.

That is just a small sample of what’s currently on the list. I think it’s a nice mix of active, overseas, cultural and the Aussie, but I am more than happy to print out a longer list or buy a larger fridge to display it!

So, now it’s your turn. What is missing from our list? What cracker destinations must we add?

The Basics

lp-trans-book-depositWhat: The Bucket List is open to all suggestions. I figure once the appeal of sitting on a long haul flight fades, our focus will change and we will travel much closer to home.

Where: Anywhere.

When: Anytime, and any length of time.

Why: Who needs a reason to travel?

How: Planes, trains, automobiles plus by boat, on foot, by bicycle.

Who: Myself and The Brave Man* and anyone else up for adventure.

Related Posts: Watch this space

Related Blogs:

*The Brave Man refers to my husband. He is indeed a brave man for marrying a crazy woman like me!