John Meyer Books https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com Wed, 07 Feb 2018 20:46:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.5 The Title, the Cover, and the Trailer https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/title-cover-trailer/ https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/title-cover-trailer/#respond Wed, 07 Feb 2018 20:46:00 +0000 https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/?p=3568 How did you come up with the title? All my books contain an alliteration indicating the book’s themes and settings along with the prime location of the story. (Bullets, Butterflies, and Italy: the threat of violence, the first stirrings of …

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How did you come up with the title?

All my books contain an alliteration indicating the book’s themes and settings along with the prime location of the story. (Bullets, Butterflies, and Italy: the threat of violence, the first stirrings of new love, and… Italy) (Bulls, Bands, and London: the running of the bulls in Pamplona, the hero’s love of Britpop music, and… London).

Pilgrim StatueSo in Shadows, Shells, and Spain, I immediately had the prime location (Spain) and one of the main symbols of the Camino (the shell). But I didn’t have that third piece of the puzzle.

On the final morning of my journey, I was casting long shadows as I followed this lone woman towards Santiago de Compostela. When I passed her, she sighed in relief, “Thank goodness. I was tired of trying to escape your shadow.”

A few minutes later, it hit me. I could employ the word, “shadow,” to represent one of my book’s major themes: that your troubled past can often hold you back as you try to advance to a happier future. Shadows, Shells and Spain: now there’s some perfect alliteration!

Once I wrote that title in my notebook, I waited for that woman to catch up to me again and then informed her, “You just helped me name my book!” Once I fully explained myself, she smiled and marched on. “What’s your name?” “Pamela. But my friends call me Pam.” And that’s when I named my main female character as well!

How did you come up with the cover?

Shadows, Shells, and Spain is definitely not the first book to take place on the exhausting and exhilarating Camino de Santiago. Even if you do a cursory search in Google Chrome, you will be presented with dozens of books about the Camino.

However, my book is presented as a fictional travel memoir i.e. a travel book packed with accurate local descriptions and historical anecdotes—inside a completely fictional story following a desperate husband in search of his estranged and mysterious wife.

Now look again at your Google search of Camino books. They’re all so brown! Most of those covers represent the dreaded Meseta section of the Camino path, “the two-hundred-kilometer stretch of barren plateau that lies in the center of the country. Pilgrims complain of its dry heat, lack of shade, limited food resources, non-existent landmarks, and drab scenery.”

So why would you want to showcase that kind of scenery for your book cover? Will that kind of cover inspire a reader to temporarily leave his or her family and friends to walk 800 kilometers across northern Spain? Probably not…

Shadows, Shells, and Spain

So just like how the interior of my book represents a different kind of Camino book, I wanted the exterior of my book to represent a different kind of Camino as well. When I walked the path in June of 2014, most of the landscape was green and lush and absolutely lovely. Therefore, I was determined to create a cover that reflected that majestic beauty and chose one of my photos from a stretch of road outside Los Arcos. Green, lush, lovely, perhaps inspiring enough to encourage you to temporarily leave your family and friends to walk 800 kilometers across northern Spain.

 

How did you come up with the trailer?

The trailer has little to do with the book and everything to do with providing an accurate summary of my Camino journey. Every day I took short videos reflecting the ever-changing landscape: 193 videos in all, ranging from five to thirty seconds. When you put them all together, the entire video sequence was 62 minutes long.

So I started to trim the fat, deleting the shakiest parts (I refused to stop and take these videos; this was a long march, so I kept moving…), and erased any scenery that felt like a carbon copy of something you saw seconds earlier. Sixty-two minutes became thirty minutes which became twenty minutes which became a tight nine minutes then an even tighter five minutes. Stabilized the video, added two tracks from the YouTube library and here we are! (And yes, I only had a total of 90 minutes of rain!)

 

Shadows, Shells, and Spain

“First, get a Camino guidebook. Then get the real story behind the majestic beauty and awesome power of the Camino de Santiago…”

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The Death of Running with the Bulls vs. The Life of the Camino https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/bulls-vs-camino/ Tue, 30 Jan 2018 17:44:34 +0000 https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/?p=3552 Another Book Inspired by Spain Because I write what I call fictional travel memoirs, I need locations that are rich in history, steeped in adventure, and filled with local, colorful characters. And now in two of my books, I’ve been …

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Another Book Inspired by Spain

Because I write what I call fictional travel memoirs, I need locations that are rich in history, steeped in adventure, and filled with local, colorful characters. And now in two of my books, I’ve been drawn to Spain for all those reasons and more.

Running of the Bulls

Running of the Bulls

 

The first time was in my previous book, Bulls, Bands, and London, where I ran with the bulls during Pamplona’s San Fermin Festival. Sure, London was the primary focus of the story but Pamplona was where the main character was truly challenged and had to make a life-altering decision—while risking his life being pursued by a half-dozen frightened bulls.

 

My current book, Shadows, Shells, and Spain, was first conceived while I was visiting the town of Estella during the research stage of Bulls, Bands, and London. Exploring the town, I saw many hikers marching through Estella with their gigantic backpacks and their walking sticks. What was going on? Who were these people?

I visited a local albergue where many of these walkers were staying and discovered a diverse group of people from all over the world; travelers who were determined to walk 800 kilometers across Spain, along an ancient Roman trading route, towards Santiago de Compostela. Each walker had their own personal reason for their demanding journey. Some had just quit their jobs. Some had just quit their marriages. Some just needed to unplug from their stressful lives back home. Whatever their reason they were all united in their belief that walking across the country would help them heal from their hurts—or stimulate their minds in order to live their lives better when they returned home.

After so much death and danger encountered in Pamplona during the Running of the Bulls (specifically in the bullfights that followed the morning race), the Camino was a welcome tonic: a life-affirming adventure that flew in the face of the desperate escape from potential harm that one only encountered during the San Fermin Festival. That both events crossed paths in Pamplona was equally eerie and enriching.

Leaving Pamplona

Leaving Pamplona

 

So in June 2014, I joined this pilgrim party and walked the Spanish Camino from Pamplona to Santiago. The adventure had everything I needed to write my next book. I had the rich history of the Camino; I uncovered interesting anecdotes in every town; and I met wonderful characters from around the world. All I needed to do was add my fictional story.

 

To outside pilgrims scattered across the globe this Camino was perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some serious soul-searching. To Spanish pilgrims, this 800 kilometer trek was almost a rite of passage: a journey every Spaniard must make in order to test the body, free the mind, nurture the soul—and truly understand what it means to be Spanish.

That’s what especially draws me to Spain. It doesn’t matter where you live, what you do for a living, or how much money you make, every citizen embraces their heritage and takes a moment to re-connect with the land and dig deep inside their hearts to re-focus their minds on what’s truly important in their lives.

 

Shadows, Shells, and Spain

“First, get a Camino guidebook. Then get the real story behind the majestic beauty and awesome power of the Camino de Santiago…”

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Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt/ Mon, 28 Jul 2014 19:17:04 +0000 https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/?p=3106 “Book #3 Now Has a Title!” This Friday, I return to Spain for the second part of my research trip for book #3 – although this time I’m trading in the peaceful and pastoral Camino de Santiago for the louder …

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“Book #3 Now Has a Title!”

This Friday, I return to Spain for the second part of my research trip for book #3 – although this time I’m trading in the peaceful and pastoral Camino de Santiago for the louder and more libertine Ibiza (along with Mallorca and Gibraltar).

The other difference in this trip is now I also have a book title!

Usually titles are the last thing on my mind until I’ve completed the first draft of the book. But a chance encounter during my last day of the Camino suddenly inspired its formation.

Obviously, I have a method to my madness. I need two metaphors (with an alliteration) and a location….

Bullets, Butterflies, and Italy: “Bullets” refers to the threat of violence and murder while “butterflies” symbolize the feeling of new love and the sensation you get in your stomach when you’re attracted to someone new. (I don’t think I have to explain “Italy”…)

Bulls, Bands, and London lacks some subtlety but does do the trick: “Bulls” embodies the sacrificial bulls from Pamplona’s San Fermin Festival while “bands” alludes to Neil and Jordan’s love for Britpop, Jordan’s rock music website, the Blur reunion show at Hyde Park, and Neil’s rock ‘n’ roll pub crawl in Camden Town. (And “London” was chosen over “Pamplona” because, well, I knew I was heading to Spain for book #3.)

Now we come to the third adventure. As already indicated, a significant amount of the story will take place on the Camino. And yes, there will also be some sort of twisted love story. While I walked, I referred to my book as Roads, Romance, and Spain – but that was far too obvious bordering on boring and a further regression from the title of Bulls, Bands, and London.

So I walked and allowed inspiration to call – and it answered me on Day 22 on my approach to Santiago de Compostela.

Approach to Santiago de Compostela

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was early morning and the sun was behind us as we pilgrims walked through the Santiago suburbs creating long shadows on the Camino trail. Nearing an older American woman, she stepped aside and said to me with a smile, “Go ahead. I’m tired of chasing shadows.”

“Chasing shadows.” I loved that phrase and it bounced around my head for awhile. Then suddenly it occurred to me that my main characters in book #3 were sort of “chasing shadows” as well. One of my upcoming themes in the book was how mistakes of your past can sometimes haunt you in the present, especially when it comes to failed relationships. Your past mistakes make you flawed and vulnerable and it’s not always easy to learn from them and grow as a person. Not right away, at least.

So I stuck with “shadows” for the moment. However, now I needed another word that summarized the Camino and sounded the same as “shadows.” And it couldn’t just start with an “S,” it had to start with a “Sh.” So while I started to formulate “Sh” words in my mind, I stumbled upon one of the many symbols that dot the entire Camino trail and point the way.

And no, it’s not the yellow arrow. It’s the “shell.”

San Marcos statue in Leon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I mention the significance of the shell symbol along the Way of St. James in Bands, Bulls, and London:

“Why a scallop shell? In one legend, the dead body of St. James was covered in scallops when it washed ashore in Spain. In another legend, a groom and his horse rode into the ocean when they saw the boat carrying the body of St. James and came back to shore covered in scallops.

Either way, it’s now a modern-day metaphor with the many grooves in the shell arriving at a single point representing the many routes the pilgrims journeyed to get to Santiago de Compostela.”

So I now had my new title: Shadows, Shells, and Spain!

I immediately wrote those words down in my notebook and waited for that American woman to catch up to me. When she and her husband neared I said, “I just wanted to thank you for giving me the title of my book!”

“What?”

I explained my use of metaphors and place names and how I used them in my previous titles. Without missing a beat the fellow pilgrim nodded and repeated, “Chasing shadows…”

I then showed her my notebook with the new title etched across the front page. She had once co-written a book as well while her granddaughter had just self-published her first novel so they were sympathetic to my excitement.

Before they walked away, I asked, “Wait, what’s your name?”

“Pamela.”

I wrote some more notes before rejoining the trail, satisfied that I was now approaching the end of my 22 day journey and I had my new book title. However, I soon had more than that.

I soon caught up to Pamela and her husband again and I shouted out, “You know what, Pamela? I’m also going to name my main female character after you too!”

NEXT MONDAY I’LL BE IN MALLORCA!

 

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Baseball in My Shoe https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/baseball-in-my-shoe/ Mon, 21 Jul 2014 19:50:27 +0000 https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/?p=3090 As I stated last week, I’m not renowned for my predictions. And I get nervous when traveling friends ask me to predict their trips. “How many days should I spend in Rome?” “How many towns in Costa Rica can I see …

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As I stated last week, I’m not renowned for my predictions. And I get nervous when traveling friends ask me to predict their trips.

“How many days should I spend in Rome?” “How many towns in Costa Rica can I see if I only have a week?” “If I arrive in Paris on a Friday should I book a hotel in Nice on the Tuesday?”

(By the way, the answers to those questions are “4 full days and 4 full nights,” “3 towns in a week,” and “no, you should leave for Nice on the Wednesday because some places will be closed on Sundays and Monday, so you need that Tuesday to complete your Paris itinerary.”)

And as I stated last week, I was wrong about my Day 9 prediction from my previous Spanish Camino post.

https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/walk-for-the-ages/

I didn’t stay in the town of San Juan de Ortega on Day 9 but rather in the village of Ages.

And as I stated last week, Ages was the town where I got hurt.

It changed the trip. And it changed my Camino.

It happened while I made the final approach into Ages. Walking up a hill, I felt something “pop” at the back of my left foot. And because I was focused on cleaning up and touring the town and eating dinner and drinking a significant amount of local wine…I forgot all about it until the next morning.

That morning, walking towards the city of Burgos, I started to feel a pain in my left ankle. Nothing massive – just an annoying little throb whenever I turned a corner or lumbered down a hill. By the time I reached Burgos, my left ankle had blown up to the size of a baseball!

I finally stopped in the first pharmacy that advertised “we speak English” on the door. Taking off my shoe and rolling down my sock, the pharmacist calmly nodded, “Yes. You did something to it. You should probably rest for a week. But since you are on the Camino, I know you will not do that…”

She gave me pain pills and a “magic” healing cream that soccer players use when they pull their muscles on the pitch. “And ice it tonight. And tomorrow morning. But don’t walk. You can sightsee. But do not walk on the Camino.”

For the next four days, I obeyed the pharmacist and stayed off the Camino. I toured around Burgos that night – with a major limp. I then took the bus to Leon – with a major limp. I even stayed an extra day to sightsee that city – but now the limp was minor. I then took the bus to Astorga to keep up with the Camino’s itinerary (I still had a due date in Santiago de Compostela and I couldn’t fall too far behind…). By then the limp was gone but I still didn’t trust my swollen ankle. Then I took another bus to Ponferrada to be sure.

Finally, four days after my injury, I began to walk the Camino again. So now my 500 km. trek across Spain was reduced to a 420 km. journey.

So this naturally effected my Day 16 prediction:

https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/camino-de-santiago-3/

“…Well, it’s officially Day 16 of my trip, so if everything goes according to plan, I should be in the town of O’Cebreiro.”

No, O’Cebreiro was Day 15. I had to leap across some towns in order to stay on track.

O'Cebreiro #1

 

 

 

 

 

 

O'Cebreiro #2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Day 16, I was actually further down the road in Triacastela.

From my notebook:
“Triacastela is literally two parallel streets. One with albergues and restaurants – the other with albergues and a few sad businesses…I asked the Irish woman, “What do you do in a town like this?” “Rest.”…Couldn’t wait to leave the worst town on the Camino. ‘Triacastela’ means three castles. Today, all those castles are gone. They should rename this town ‘Nocastela’…”

Triacastela

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clearly, I wasn’t amused. Perhaps because of the sore ankle. Perhaps because Triacastela was quite awful. Not every day can be a banner day on the Camino. Fortunately, the trip immediately improved the following morning on the way to the fun town of Sarria… and for the rest of the journey into glorious Santiago de Compostela!

John Meyer in Santiago de Compostela

 

 

 

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A Walk for the Ages & 50 Shades of Europe https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/walk-for-the-ages/ Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:20:25 +0000 https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/?p=3080 I’m not renowned for my predictions. The first time I ever heard rap music I predicted that it would disappear as fast as break-dancing. “Wait a minute, they don’t play instruments? They just talk over records? This can’t last…” So …

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I’m not renowned for my predictions. The first time I ever heard rap music I predicted that it would disappear as fast as break-dancing.

“Wait a minute, they don’t play instruments? They just talk over records? This can’t last…”

So I get nervous when traveling friends ask me to predict their trips.

“How many days should I spend in Rome?” “How many towns in Costa Rica can I see if I only have a week?” “If I arrive in Paris on a Friday should I book a hotel in Nice on the Tuesday?”

I always recommend that people should only book their first night at a hotel upon arrival. Show up with an itinerary but keep it loose. Don’t be a slave to promises and prior bookings. Let the trip and its many delights and obstacles dictate how long you should spend in each place.

Few friends listen.

And so it went with the Spanish Camino. I left behind some Monday Posts to track my predicted progress – and I was ultimately wrong.

The first leg was accurate – but only because it predicted where I’d be on Day 2.

The Day 9 prediction from my second post was…close but no cigar.

https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/camino-de-santiago-2/

“…So if everything goes according to plan, I should be in the town of San Juan de Ortega.”

Now part of that statement is true. I did visit the town of San Juan de Ortega. But only briefly. While my guidebook painted it as a quaint and romantic stop on the Camino, my impression of it was rather different.

From my notebook:
“Literally a few modern homes, a hotel, and a church with an albergue and a bar. Population 20. Dismal. There is nothing to do here. Got a vending machine coke and used the albergue bathroom. That’s it. It was time to move on.”

Here’s a photo of it.

San Juan de Ortega

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now imagine staring at that photo for the next eight hours. Because that’s all there it is to do in San Juan de Ortega.

So my friends and I moved on. A few kilometres later, we reached the village of Ages. It wasn’t much bigger than San Juan de Ortega but it was an improvement.

Approaching Ages, Spain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From my notebook:
“Population 200 with maybe two streets. And four albergues…. The best part of the lonely church was that it had ample shade. Walking around town only took ten minutes and that’s because I walked very slow in the heat. At least there were three places to eat and drink. And I exhausted them all.”

Church in Ages, Spain

 

 

 

 

 

Selfie Attempt in Ages, Spain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, my most significant memory from Ages wasn’t the shady church or my attempt at the above selfie or the dinner I had with the Arizona couple who complained about the lack of ketchup in Spain or the drinks I had with the Australian girl who slept in her sleeping bag in open fields. No, Ages was the town where I got hurt.

“Let the trip and its many delights and obstacles dictate how long you should spend in each place.” Getting hurt was the obstacle that dictated how long I should spend in each place. It changed the trip. And it changed my Camino.

And next week, I’ll share those details!….

WEBSITE OF THE WEEK

Now if you think the summer is half over – you’re right – but it’s never too late to plan a trip to Europe.

Check out this fabulous list of 50 Places in Europe You Need to Visit. But don’t feel any pressure. These suggestions are not only for this year – they’re for the rest of your life.

http://www.businessinsider.com.au/places-in-europe-to-visit-2014-6#stroll-along-the-promenade-des-anglais-in-nice-in-the-south-of-france-1

I’ve done most of these items and I’m off to a good start on page one – walking the beach promenade in Nice, France. In fact, I did it two years ago. They were playing “Some Like It Hot” on a big screen (in English with French subtitles) in one of the small squares for the locals. If only there was an available seat (and an available bottle of wine), I would have joined them.

#4 is definitely familiar – Bullets, Butterflies, and Italy, anyone?

#8 is definitely on my party radar – I’m heading for Ibiza this August (for more research on book #3)!

#11 – I played the slots in Monte Carlo (and lost 50 euros in 5 minutes)…does that count?

Bullets, Butterflies, and Italy returns with a vengeance for #13 (see chapter 9)!

#22 is amazing in that there is no security and no fences. I literally stood on the edge of those cliffs and looked down. That reckless shit wouldn’t fly in litigious North America.

Did #23 with Oktoberfest gusto. Don’t forget to look your German hosts in the eye when you toast. (Otherwise you get scolded!)

Keep those Bullets, Butterflies, and Italy references coming #24!

#27 can exhaust you so scout out your favourite exhibits – like the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles.

Did #30 in Interlaken many years ago when we were too late in the season to go to Running with the Bulls in Spain. It was a good backup adrenaline rush!

There we go…finally a Bulls, Bands, and London reference in #35! Good photo too – the bulls are just about to turn the corner into Calle de la Estafeta….

Oh, did #36 as well! The 50 year-old Hungarian woman with the meaty hands beat my back like a side of beef – best massage I ever had.

Did #41 on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham were all on the road playing in other cities. So I had to settle for Fulham. (Sorry, Fulham.)

Saw #48 ten years ago. On August 1, I will return to Barcelona to see it again!

More news about that trip in the coming weeks…

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Camino de Santiago Stage #3 https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/camino-de-santiago-3/ Mon, 16 Jun 2014 16:30:57 +0000 https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/?p=3028 (Note that this was written on May 29, 2014…) Once again, buen Camino! As you’re reading this post, I’m currently walking across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. Here’s another mention of it  in Bulls, Bands, and London with a brief description of its …

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(Note that this was written on May 29, 2014…)

Once again, buen Camino! As you’re reading this post, I’m currently walking across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. Here’s another mention of it  in Bulls, Bands, and London with a brief description of its universal symbol:

“…At the end of the street was…the town’s pilgrim refugio. In case there was any doubt, a symbol of the Camino, the scallop shell of St. James, hung above the doorway.

Why a scallop shell? In one legend, the dead body of St. James was covered in scallops when it washed ashore in Spain. In another legend, a groom and his horse rode into the ocean when they saw the boat carrying the body of St. James and came back to shore covered in scallops.

Either way, it’s now a modern-day metaphor with the many grooves in the shell arriving at a single point representing the many routes the pilgrims journeyed to get to Santiago de Compostela.

Or if you don’t like that metaphor, how about…just like the ocean waves wash up scallop shells onto the beaches of northern Spain, so does God guide the pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela.”

So where was I guided to this week? Well, it’s officially Day 16 of my trip, so if everything goes according to plan, I should be in the town of O Cebreiro.

Now if that seems like I covered a lot of extra ground from the previous week that’s because I took a bus or train from Burgos to Leon – skipping much of the notorious meseta. The meseta is a dry and barren plain, with no trees, and very little shade, where you can see the approaching village on the horizon but it never seems to get any closer. Pilgrims dread it. Pilgrims often avoid it altogether and take the bus.

Now while I’m also avoiding it…I’m doing it for the purposes of the plot of the book…which won’t be made clear until its release! So for now you’ll just have trust me that I skipped over the worst part of my journey…for a plot point.

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Camino de Santiago Stage #2 https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/camino-de-santiago-2/ Mon, 09 Jun 2014 16:30:39 +0000 https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/?p=3016 (Note that this was written on May 29, 2014…) Buen Camino…again! As you’re reading this post, I’m currently walking across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. Here’s a further mention of it  in Bulls, Bands, and London: “Now any road that takes you …

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(Note that this was written on May 29, 2014…)

Buen Camino…again! As you’re reading this post, I’m currently walking across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. Here’s a further mention of it  in Bulls, Bands, and London:

“Now any road that takes you to Santiago de Compostela counts as a pilgrimage. But the four major routes all originate in France in the cities of Paris, Vezelay, Le Puy-en-Velay, and Arles—although they all converge in Puente la Reina, twenty-two kilometers east of Estella.

Today, the most popular starting point is actually in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees. Approximately eight hundred kilometers from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, after four weeks of steady walking, you should arrive in Santiago de Compostela.”

Now I didn’t start in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port; for purposes of the book, I started in Pamplona eight days ago. So if everything goes according to plan, I should be in the town of San Juan de Ortega.

Now since I’ve never been to San Juan de Ortega, I can’t really describe it to you. However, I can speak to the town of Estella where I will allegedly stayed on Day 2. It’s also mentioned in Bulls, Bands, and London:

“Estella was the Spanish word for star and the town was advertised as one of the most beautiful communities in Navarre thanks to its location along the Ega River with nearby mountains encircling the town to protect it from the winds. But through my sleepy eyes I only noticed the suburban car dealerships. Maybe that’s what made Estella so beautiful. Car lots were a blot to the landscape so the punishment was the remedial use of a plot of land far outside the city limits.

I perked up when my bus finally parked at the Estella bus station. The neo-Moorish building and its twin towers were crafted with exquisite masonry to pay tribute to the nearby Palace of the Kings of Navarre and complement the beauty of its riverside location. The station alone was meant to elevate Estella from functional railway stop to pleasant tourist destination…

I rubbed my eyes and briefly considered my surroundings. Spanish bus driver standing on the sidewalk sucking on a cigarette? Check. Parking lot across the bus station filled with small four-cylinder cars? Check. Seventeenth-century convent looming behind the parking lot in dreadfully eerie silence? Check. Rolling hills covered in green deciduous trees majestically watching over the town without the taint of big city development? Check.”

Another Camino update next week (written in advance)? Check.

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Camino de Santiago Stage #1 https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/camino-de-santiago-1/ Mon, 02 Jun 2014 16:30:47 +0000 https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/?p=3005 (Note that this was written on May 29, 2014…) Buen Camino! As you’re reading this post, I’m currently walking across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. I mention it briefly in Bulls, Bands, and London: “It’s known as The Way of …

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(Note that this was written on May 29, 2014…)

Buen Camino! As you’re reading this post, I’m currently walking across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. I mention it briefly in Bulls, Bands, and London:

“It’s known as The Way of St. James in English, but usually referred to simply as the Camino. After Jerusalem and Rome, Santiago de Compostela was considered the third most holy place in medieval Christendom because it contained the rumored remains of St. James…

Spanish tradition states that after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, James preached the Gospel in northern Spain. And after he was killed by Herod Agrippa in 44 AD, he was returned there by boat by his followers. Then in the eighth century, James’s relics were discovered in Santiago de Compostela. And voilà, Christians from all over Europe wanted to see them and pay their respects. So how did they get around in medieval times? They walked (or rode their horse if they could afford one). And the pilgrimage route, and the industry that catered to it, was born.”

So yes, its origins are religious but today thousands of pilgrims tackle the journey for various personal reasons: loss of partner, loss of job, conquering a disease, age milestone, strong need to unplug and escape 21st century life, fitness, or simply the challenge of a new adventure. Me? I’m researching the next book!

However, since I just started my walk across Spain yesterday (June 1), I haven’t gotten very far. Basically, I left my starting point in Pamplona and made it to the tiny town of Puente la Reina 23 kilometres away.


View Larger Map

This was my hotel in Pamplona:

http://www.hotelyoldi.com/index.php/en/

This is the town of Puente la Reina. You have to like the 11th century bridge built just for the wandering pilgrims.

http://www.coccarelli.it/santiagoinbici/puente_la_reina.htm

Next week, I hope to have more of a Camino update…or, at least, a longer map…

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Parklife in Toronto and Drowning in the Caribbean https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/parklife-in-toronto/ Mon, 21 Apr 2014 19:50:53 +0000 https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/?p=2936 My upcoming trip to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago in June has finally reached the preparation stage. I’ve never had to fully prep for an adventure before; usually I just arrive and go with the flow. When I …

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My upcoming trip to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago in June has finally reached the preparation stage. I’ve never had to fully prep for an adventure before; usually I just arrive and go with the flow.

When I swam with the dolphins in Argentina the captain said, “The dolphins are over there. Put on your wetsuit and jump in the water!”

When I went canyoning in Switzerland the guide said, “The waterfalls are over there. Put on your wetsuit – and your helmet – and jump in the water!”

When I went whitewater rafting in Costa Rica, we spent a grand total of ten minutes on the land learning how to paddle properly and respond to all the verbal signals. Because I was partnered with a local Costa Rican family, I spent most of that time learning the Spanish words for “left,” “right,” “forward,” and “back.”

When I went scuba diving during that Caribbean cruise, we spent a grand total of fifteen minutes in the shallow water off St. Thomas learning how to scuba dive.

Of course, my mask didn’t fit right with my head and seawater kept leaking into the air pocket. Later, in much deeper water, surrounded by pools of exotic fish, I couldn’t tolerate it any longer and swam to the surface to adjust my mask. Within seconds, two lifeguards were swimming towards me and “saving me” from drowning!

“I’m all right! My mask is messed up!”

“Did you alert your dive instructor before you surfaced?!”

“I couldn’t see her. There were all these fish. And my mask was leaking!”

I was then banned from scuba diving for the rest of the afternoon. Stupid mask.

Now I have to seriously prepare for this 600 kilometre walk….by walking. A few times a week for miles at a time. It’s all about breaking in your comfortable walking shoes and preparing your feet and legs. The goal is to avoid blisters and shin splints and knee problems – as best as you can. Walking 25 kilometres a day in Spain will shock your body significantly more than a ill-fitting wetsuit and a leaky scuba mask.

So when I went to the travel gear store, I was given four pairs of shoes and told to walk around the store. When I narrowed it down to my top two pairs, I was told to try them both on again and walk up and down the stairs. When I finally made my shoe choice (after thirty minutes inside the store – or about twice as long as my scuba diving lesson), I was then lectured about proper socks.

I bought the recommended three pairs with the wicking material on the inside and the wool material on the outside. “You used to have to buy an inner shell and an outer shell for each foot. Now it’s all-in-one!” This is what the brilliant minds are working on – minimizing your sock supply for the Camino.

So now I walk. I pick further flung places to go for my errands. On my way home from work, I exit the subway a little early and walk the rest of the way home. And I always choose parks over city streets.

Once (so far) I walked all the way home from work (mostly on park trails). It took 3 hours and 45 minutes and I learned two valuable lessons. 1) Don’t listen to your iPod when you’re walking on the train tracks. (Yes, a train was barreling towards me and I had to scramble out of the way!)  2) Listen to the experts and don’t wear cotton shirts when you walk long distances. That shirt got pretty sweaty and that shirt chafed me in a couple of rude places until I developed a rash.

Oh well.

And while my legs were definitely tired, my feet were unharmed. Thank you, comfortable shoes. Thank you, magic socks.

This Week in Britpop History

(As you know, Bulls, Bands, and London is loaded with Britpop goodness…)

Twenty years ago this week – two weeks after Oasis released its debut single, “Supersonic,” from their debut album, Definitely Maybe – and one week after Pulp released its 1994 album, His ‘n Hers – comes the definitive Britpop album from Blur, Parklife.

It went quadruple platinum in the UK and cemented Blur as the leaders of the new Cool Britannia movement sweeping across Great Britain. Even Noel Gallagher said it was “Southern England personified.” (For a time, the album was even going to be called London.)

However, it had virtually no airplay in the United States (thanks to the grip of grunge) but still managed to reach gold status in Canada.

It went on to win four awards at the 1995 Brit Awards including Best British Album (beating out Oasis and Pink Floyd).

“Girls & Boys,” “To The End,” “End of a Century,” and “This Is a Low” were some album highlights but “Parklife” was the one track that really captured the campy fun of the London experience. For a few short years…

Oh well. It was fun while it lasted…just like scuba diving in the Caribbean.

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Unusually Thicke with the Common People https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/unusually-thicke-common-people/ Mon, 14 Apr 2014 19:42:37 +0000 https://www.johnmeyerbooks.com/?p=2922 “Unusually Thicke” Last week, Alan Thicke and his wife, Tanya, visited our ET Canada studio to not only promote their new reality comedy show, Unusually Thicke, but to allegedly co-host our show. Now I say allegedly because our best-laid plans …

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“Unusually Thicke”

Last week, Alan Thicke and his wife, Tanya, visited our ET Canada studio to not only promote their new reality comedy show, Unusually Thicke, but to allegedly co-host our show.

Now I say allegedly because our best-laid plans with celebrities (from A-list down to the D-list) usually go awry. Unlike Ellen DeGeneres, we can’t make our stars dance on cue or play guessing games with the studio audience.

Our studio guests are always a gamble. We often have TV couples (both on-screen or off-screen) who agree to play some form of The Newlywed Game  only to back down once they see our questions – because they’re often too personal. We even recently had an ’80s star who didn’t want to talk about the ’80s that made her famous.

Now sometimes…our guests are pleasant surprises. TV legend, Ted Danson, was particularly excellent. Perhaps because I kept referring to him as “Mister Danson” whenever I spoke to him over the loudspeaker. “Excuse me, Mister Danson? Do you mind…”

He even jumped out of his seat with a laugh and shook Rick Campanelli’s hand when I wrote the following intro to his studio interview:

TED DANSON IS TV’S MOST LOVABLE SUPERSTAR – EVEN WHEN HE’S PLAYING A VICIOUS BILLIONAIRE ON DAMAGES.  BUT TODAY – HE’S HERE TO TALK ABOUT THE DAMAGES WE’VE BEEN DOING TO THE WORLD’S OCEANS…

Of course, we had a technical issue during that first take – so when Rick repeated that intro moments later Mister Danson calmly remained in his chair and only smiled. Sigh.

A certain Glee star was also a pleasant surprise. At some point, he responded to one of my loudspeaker comments by raising his middle finger. When I then joked that maybe he could repeat that gesture with a verbal explanation so that the seeing-impaired could enjoy it too, he laughed and remained a pleasure to be around for the rest of the afternoon.

So Alan Thicke and his wife were a gamble. The trick is to write studio intros that set up the actual story but leave room for commentary or quick Hollywood anecdotes.

Like this:

(ROZ)
SO TONIGHT WE’VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT BIG COMEDY STARS WORKING TOGETHER IN “WORKING THE ENGELS” – BUT NOW LET’S GO BACK TO 1982 – THE LAST TIME ROBIN WILLIAMS AND PAM DAWBER WORKED TOGETHER ON “MORK AND MINDY.” SO ALAN, WHERE WERE YOU IN ’82?

(ALAN)
1982? I WAS HOSTING “THE ALAN THICKE SHOW” IN VANCOUVER….

(TANYA)
(joking)
I WAS PLAYING WITH MY BARBIES IN THE NURSERY…

(ROZ)
WELL, LET’S TAKE YOU BACK TO THOSE MAGICAL TIMES FOR BOTH OF YOU – WHEN “MORK AND MINDY” REUNITE ON ROBIN’S CURRENT SITCOM, “THE CRAZY ONES.”

Then Mister Thicke launched into an anecdote about trying to hire Robin Williams on his TV comedy, Fernwood 2 Night, back in the ’70s! (Bottom line: Robin Williams was too “wild” for the show and they didn’t know what to do with him.)

Awesome.

Then later Alan and Tanya Thicke were asked to read a couple of headlines (which I don’t write).

Their lines were:

(ALAN LINER:) FIND OUT WHY I’M “UNUSUALLY THICKE!”

(TANYA LINER:) THAT’S WHY I MARRIED YOU HONEY….

But Mister Thicke didn’t want to say that line. “Hey, I love the line; it’s a very funny line…but I’m a little uncomfortable with that line in this context.”

Of course, he’s right. But he was also such an old pro about it. He didn’t shit on it. He even complimented it…with a caveat.

So I changed it to:

(ALAN LINER:) FIND OUT WHATS SO “UNUSUAL” ABOUT US..

(TANYA LINER:) HE’S UNUSUAL, I’M FUN AND SEXY!

And they both were happy. And so were we. The Thickes were worth the gamble!

“This Week in Britpop History”

(As you know, Bulls, Bands, and London features lots of Britpop goodness…)

It’s a big week for Britpop favourites, Pulp. First of all, twenty years ago this week, the Sheffield band released its 1994 album, His ‘n Hers, which contained the aforementioned (in other posts) “Do You Remember the First Time?” and “Lipgloss,” among other tuneful tales of angst and isolation.

The album reached #9 on the British charts and missed out on winning the Mercury Prize by reportedly one measly vote. More importantly, Pulp was linked with other British bands like Blur, Suede, and newcomers, Oasis, as the guiding lights of the burgeoning Britpop moment.

Then this week Pulp’s “Common People” (from their 1995 album, Different Class) was named the #1 Britpop anthem by BBC Radio 6 listeners!

Here are the top 10 Britpop anthems (chosen by 30,000 UK voters):

1. Pulp – Common People
2. The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony
3. Oasis – Don’t Look Back in Anger
4. Oasis – Wonderwall
5. Blur – Parklife
6. Suede – Animal Nitrate
7. Blur – Girls & Boys
8. The Bluetones – Slight Return
9. Pulp – Disco 2000
10. Ash – Girl From Mars

So here it is, the number one Britpop anthem!

 

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