Spicy Quinoa Pilaf

Quinoa Pilaf

I love working with Quinoa – it’s a versatile starch, carbohydrate (actually a seed, not a grain) grown in Central and South America and has high protein compound compared to other whole grains. I also say it’s a chameleon where it takes flavours from other ingredients that you incorporate so it tastes great. I say this with whole lot of love especially for South Asian food since it acts just like rice, taking on flavours but it has better nutritional value than rice.

IMG_4193 IMG_4194






This is a simple recipe that can be prepared with little preparation – like I said earlier its very healthy and has protein, carbohydrate and good source of fibre. This is a low-GI food where it’s a great alternative to rice, pasta or potatoes and suitable for Celiac, Diabetes, CVD, Vegan and Vegetarian diet and tastes delicious!


Prep time: 25 min            Cooking time: 25 min                      Serves 5 people (as a side dish)


1 tsp canola oil

1 bay leaf

1 small cinnamon stick

3 gloves

1 green cardamom, pounded

1 small onion chopped

1 tsp curry powder (mixture of coriander, turmeric, cumin, black pepper, and chili powder)

1 cup mixed vegetables

1 cup quinoa (soaked, washed and drained)

2 cups water

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly chopped coriander

2 tbsp toasted almonds


1. Heat oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add bay leaf and cinnamon stick and fry 30 seconds. Add onion and fry until the onions are soft and add cloves & cardamom

2. Add curry powder mixture and fry for 2 minutes (it will burn so move it around quickly). Add mixed vegetables and mix well

3. Add quinoa and coat it well with onions and vegetables. Add 2 cups of water and bring it to a boil. Adjust the taste with salt and add coriander and lower the temperature to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the all the water has been absorbed. Tuff off the stove and let it stand for another 10 minutes. Fluff with fork and sprinkle almonds and chopped coriander and serve warm.

Nutrients per serving (1/2 cup): Calories: 121; Carbohydrates: 17g; Protein: 6g; Fibre: 3g;  Fat: 4g; Cholesterol: 0mg;  Sodium: 350 mg

6th Annual South Asian Diabetes Expo

I am excited about our 6th South Asian Diabetes Expo – Canadian Diabetes Association has been helping the South Asian Diabetes Chapter to bring diabetes awareness in the South Community in a sensitive manner.

We have an exciting event where medical professionals will be speaking about topics that we haven’t touched on at the South Asian Expo, including Belly Fat and why its bad for you and Diabetes Care overall care – we believe these are sounds topics that will resonate with the attendees.

We will also talk about Fat, Diabetes and Healthy Eating in the kitchen, and demystify between good fats and bad fats. I will do a cooking demonstration using alternate grains in the South Asian kitchen as I am always experimenting using different grains for South Asian cooking.

We’ll also have fitness demonstration using fitness rubber bands as they are great for taking them anywhere including on your trips. We’ll have a full trade show and much more.

SA Expo Poster

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

When you start to see leaves turn golden colour you know we are in fall the season and you’ll see plenty of different varieties of squash and pumpkins showing up in markets. It’s time to stock your cellar with them as they will get you through the fall and winter season. Cooking with them is easy as they are high in potassium, fibre and it will fill you up with good calories and suitable for people with Diabetes, CVD, Celiac and Vegan diet. Here is a staple recipe as your family will enjoy the soup through the cold months.







Cooking time 40 min       Prep time 15 min              Serves 12

Chef’s Notes: This soup freezes well, make large quantities and store in the freezer for future use!

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup


1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 lbs Squash (medium sized) peeled, seeded and cubed

4 cups vegetable stock (low sodium)

1 large onion, chopped

2 celery stocks, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

1 cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves

Salt and pepper for taste


  1. In a large stock pot heat the oil and add onion, celery and carrots and sauté well
  2. Add cinnamon and bay leaves, and sauté for another minute
  3. Add squash and sauté another minute
  4. Add stock and bring it to a boil and simmer for 40 minutes or until squash is tender
  5. Season the soup with salt and pepper
  6. Cool the soup, take out cinnamon stick and bay leaves
  7. In batches puree the soup in a blender and incorporate all the soup and add additional stock/water to desired consistency
  8. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seed or pumpkin oil and serve warm

Nutritional Analysis per 1 serving (8 oz/1 cup): Calories 83; Fat 2g; Fibre 2g; Carb 14g; Sodium 103 mg; Protein 3g

Beef Ribs and Chimichurri

Grilled Beef Ribs with Chimichurri Sauce

Summer BBQ is not complete without Grilled Beef ribs with Chimichurri sauce. It’s so easy to prepare and you’ll enjoy making this recipe many times in the summer. For the ribs, the simple dry rub (Columbian based) makes the beef ribs taste tender and juicy. The secret is the ingredient coffee, which makes the meat tender and it’s perfect for beef – works even better if it’s marinated over night. The grilled ribs are paired with Chimichurri (Argentinean sauce) which is so tangy, it’s a perfect combination.








Prep time 5 min                                Serves 6


2 tbsp ground coffee (really fine ground)

2 tbsp ground cumin

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp ground oregano

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp salt

6” inch short beef ribs


  1. Mix all of the dry ingredients and deeply rub into the ribs, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight and take it out one hour before grilling.
  2. Heat the BBQ and cook both sides to desired taste and serve with Chimichurri sauce on the side




 Chimichurri Sauce

This is a great sauce that can accompany any kind of grilled meat or fish as its tangy and spicy!

Prep time 5 min                                Makes 1 cup


2 cups washed, stemmed flat leaf parsley

1 cup washed, stemmed green coriander

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp chili flakes

1 tbsp ground cumin

4 garlic cloves

½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp ground pepper


  1. Mix all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for minimum 24 hrs

Nutritional Analysis per 1 serving: 2 tbsp (30 ml) = Calories 70; Carbohydrate 1g; Fibre 1g; Fat 7g, Sodium 161 mg; Protein 1g


Roncesvalles to Zubri

Chapter 10 – To Zubri (Day 2 of Camino)

After a long day of climbing the Pyrenees, you really feel all your muscles greeting you the next day “good morning” loud and clear – but in the same time we were ready to finish the Pyrenees and tackle something new.

Sign in Roncesvalles

Sign in Roncesvalles

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end ― Ernest Hemingway

We couldn’t convince our Innkeeper to give us breakfast early and she convinced us to stay for the grand breakfast. So we had to settle for breakfast at 8 am with items like Tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelet) ham, cheese and cakes. I guess I wait was worth it even though it put us an hour behind? It was also Sunday, the first day of “Running of the Bulls” part of San Fermin festival in Pamplona. So the bar was crowded with people watching the TV.

Gothic Pilgrims Cross 14thC

Gothic Pilgrims Cross 14thC

We were told by the Innkeeper that our walk would so much easier since it was flat. Roncesvalles has a rich history. Roland was a French military leader under Charlemagne during 8th century and led the war against the Basques across Roncesvaux pass and lost. On the way to Zubri through the forest you’ll see a gothic “Cross of the Pilgrims” representing King Sancho from 14th century.

Within 5 km you’ll come to the medieval village of Burguete – where its economy in the Middle Ages was based on pilgrim trade, shoe makers and barbers. 14th century most the town burned down.This Navarra region’s Sorginaritzaga Forest that we passed was called “Oakwood of Witches” was also famous for witchcraft in the 16th century and women were burned at the stake.

The writer Ernest Hemingway visited this village few times 1923-1959 and stayed at Hotel Burguete that still has his signature on the piano. He was inspired to write about the Navarra forests and San Fermin festival that influenced his book “The Sun also raises”.

We came across many villagers that were dressed in white and red clothing, returning from San Fermin festival at Pamplona only 20 km away. Walking through many villages the path was a steady and a quick ascend to Alto de Mezquiriz 955m and quick descend to Viskarret 750m where you have to be careful as the path was a slick paved concrete road. Without walking sticks you could tumble down and dangerous when wet. We stopped at Viskarret for lunch and tried the Navarran sausage bocadillo which was spicy with smoky paprika, delicious.

Village Burguete

Village Burguete



Steep down

Steep down







My temp basel at -50% was working like charm as I tested every hour during our walk and bolused 50% for my lunch. After lunch it was hard work – straight descend to 500m. The path was narrow and full of large boulders and rocks almost reminded me of dried up water bed – it was not easy to maneuver without actually stopping and taking few steps forward and stopping etc. Walking sticks or no walking sticks, this road down was downright brutal, one of the most dangerous descend, lot harder than yesterday as it was narrow and down.

At the bottom of the path we were pleasantly surprised to come to the village of Zubri – in Basque it means “Town of the Bridge” where everyone is greeted by the medieval bridge over river Agra.



Water break

Water break

Bridge Arga at Zubri

Bridge Arga at Zubri







Once you walk past the bridge you come to the tiny old town where there is not much except couple of alburges. We had to walk extra 1.5 km out of town to get to our hotel as the travel company that we had booked with wanted us to have a private room. Our hotel was a nondescript hotel but was pleasantly surprised at the Innkeepers lovely greetings and his complementary Cider drink from the bar cheered our tired body. He happily stamped our passports and even took our luggage to our room as most Innkeepers don’t.

Fish Soup

Fish Soup

Cordero al chilindron

Cordero al chilindron









After our shower we had no energy to walk back to the town so we decided to eat the bar of the hotel. Most of the people at the bar were all dressed in red/white were from San Fermin festival in Pamplona and were glued to the television looking at the festival highlights. For the first course we had Fish soup (endless ladles) followed by (lamb stew) slightly different style than yesterday’s and for dessert homemade Flan (Crème caramel)  with Apple Cider wine – who knew it was a gastro pub, unforgettable! We counted our luck and slept like a baby.

Thought of the day: Totally loving being outdoors with nature all day feels like a dream.

Buen Camino!

Saint Jean Pied de Port to Roncevaux

Chapter 9 – Getting to Roncesvalles (Day 1 of Camino)

Early morning we could see the early morning mist blanketed over the Pyrenees like it was waiting for the sunlight to unveil it.

I set my temp Basel to -50% (reduced the Basel insulin (slow acting insulin) to a temporary setting to -50% for a set time in my insulin pump) since the whole day will be “one long physical activity”. I set it for 12 hours as we heard it would take minimum 8 hours to reach Roncesvalles from the tourist office. I estimated from speaking to many people and Camino Forum it that would be minimum 10 hours – I just wanted the extra two hours for meal and blood sugar testing breaks. The full dosage of Basel insulin per hour would result in many low sugars and it could get dangerous to walk the mountain with the strenuous activity of climbing without proper training, snacks etc. This is what my whole training in Toronto was all about and this Basel setting has helped me knowing “my numbers” as Sebastien Sasseville talked about.

IMG_1799We stepped out of the hotel like warriors armed with our packs and walking poles like we were ready to tackle the mountain – totally exciting feeling. As we walked out of SJPP we could hear the church bell ringing 8 times as it was waving goodbye to us. We walked through the medieval “Gate of Spain” towards our “Route de Napoleon” and it really helped that we had walked few hundred meters yesterday so we were familiar with our path. Right away we could tell that it wasn’t going to be easy, within 400 meters out of town we climbed a steep hill that was so vertical it took us by surprise and we were out of breath. We found ourselves quickly out of town and walking by many farms. Our focus was to get to Orisson 11 km and if we could get there in 3 hours (giving us 3 hrs per km) as the climb was quite steep and hard.  We passed many pilgrims along the way and met a whole group of Canadians and many students from Europe all with big backpacks as we sported our small day packs.



Mountain view

Mountain view

Manech sheep

Manech sheep





If the Pyrenees could talk …

The climb was hard and invigorating in many ways; we stopped frequently to take a sip of water and Gatorade (to replace salt, carb and electrolytes) and snacked on fig-newtons (prescribed by many athletes as a snack of choice).  As we climbed the scenery kept getting grander and beautiful, we couldn’t believe our eyes. The only down side was that we had to keep climbing but we took few moments to enjoy the breathtaking view of the mountains and cows roaming the field as we could see SJPP disappear.  We met so many travelers at the water fountain after the village of Hunto as we all exchanged stories and wished Buen Camino to each other and climbed the mountain.  We anticipated how Orisson would look like? To our surprise Orisson snuck into us quite as a mouse, two buildings on the middle of the mountain road, that’s it – wow! We made it less than 3 hours to Orisson and we shouted in joy as we knew we were going to conquer the Pyrenees by end of the evening, no problem.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes ― Marcel Proust

Like seasoned traveler we unloaded our pack on the eating area and filled our water bottles, made more Gatorade (we took Gatorade crystals) and packed on Bocadillo Chorizo (Spanish sausage sandwich) and said hello to few pilgrims and high tailed to the mountain as we knew we had a hard day head of us as we were only finished 1/3 of the climb.

Pyreneean chamois

Pyreneean chamois

Glorious lunch spot

Glorious lunch spot

Roland's Fountain

Roland’s Fountain







Anyone reading this blog and wants to do the Camino there is no question, you must try the Route de Napoleon – the mountain and the view is incredible. Flocks of Griffon Vultures, Hawks and Falcons soared over hot air pockets looking for easy preys along the mountains as it was midday. You could see flocks of black faced sheep roaming the high pasture as they are called Manech for their exquisite milk producing Ossau Iraty cheese in Navarre. Many kinds of flora along the way – too many to mention and took pictures as we could as they blanketed the mountains. As we were in higher elevation about 1200m (about 15 km) we decided to take a lunch break in one of the prettiest spot along the road. We passed many pilgrims but none were close to each other as we were only one at this area and it was our castle for the time being. We sat on the rock and watched the sheep calling each other from one mountain to the other as they were singing. We could see at a distance Pyreneean chamois (wild horse) grazing the mountain pasture. I gave 50% bolus insulin for my lunch since the sandwich was so heavy in carb (so much bread).

Border France & Spain

Border France & Spain

Birch forest

Birch forest

Mistry mountain climb

Misty mountain climb







We could totally see us coming back to this climb once more in our life time as the serenity, the magic, the beauty in this mountain that I’ve never seen anywhere before. We packed up and walked toward to the summit as we still had another 5km to climb. The climb was harder than we thought as it became rocky with big boulders and you had to watch every step forward. Closer to 3pm still no sight of the summit as we didn’t see anyone for quite some time except at the distance the young Korean woman that we had met earlier who was walking slow and steady.

We got to the fountain of Roland and ran into a German traveler where he had been walking since April from Frankfurt by foot. It was quite inspiring to hear his story. After 2km we could reach the summit where there were many pilgrims resting and enjoying a snack. We fell to the ground in joy. We asked ourselves, where did all these pilgrims come from as most didn’t pass us? This was my first successful mountain climb to the summit the feeling was indescribable.  We met other travelers and exchanged stories as the German traveler said in all his journey climbing the Pyrenees was the longest and toughest. His comment somehow made us feel good as we thought it was only us who thought it was a tough climb taking 8 hrs to climb it.

Roman ruin (Mesala & Agrippa's win 27-38 BC)

Roman ruin (Mesala & Agrippa’s win 27-38 BC)

Bunker from 1936-39 Spanish Civil War

Bunker from 1936-39 Spanish Civil War







There was a choice in descend paths as well as we were advised to take the steep 5 km path down to Roncesvalles rather than through a thistle path which was dangerous.  I am not sure which was dangerous but our path was straight down with large boulders and stones and every step had to be cautious, one false move could result in injury or falling forward.  The descend down was arduous and steep as well as we were going through thick forest and not knowing how far we had come down. Finally we could hear people, church bells not far away, as usual Roncesvalles at 950m snuck into us so quickly it was anticlimactic. It took us in total 10 hours from beginning to end including our breaks, not bad I thought, it was the longest day in our week journey.

Top of the summit  at 1450m

Top of the summit at 1450m

Our hotel was right on the path of the Camino and our suitcases were waiting. We got our second stamp and unloaded our packs as we were very curious to the famous church in town before it closed at 8pm.

Roncesvalles is a small town filled with a Romanesque church, a monetary and couple of albergues and a hotel, nothing more, not even a grocery shop or shop of any kind. So bring extra supplies until you hit the next town. We were happy to meet other travelers at the bar of our hotel which was quite famous (the only one) and exchanged stories while having a beer.

Church of Santiago 13thC

Church of Santiago 13thC



New church & Alburge

New church & Alburge







It felt like everyone knew each other. We were introduced to other Canadians who walked that day as people got the wind that we were from Canada and that we might know each other. It’s quite funny actually but it was nice to connect and hear everyone’s stories.

Roasted piquillo peppers

Roasted piquillo peppers

Cordero al chilindron

Cordero al chilindron

Cod with potato

Cod with potato







For dinner we had the regional food from Navarra which was exquisite and had the same wine Irouleguy that we had in SJPP. If you are in Navarra you must try the cordero al chilindron (Lamb stew), its outstanding made with local wine. After dinner we passed out in bliss contemplating how our next day’s long trek to Zubri was going to go.

Thought of the day: I can really do this!

Buen Camino!

Spaghetti with Lemon from the Amalfi Coast

Postcards from Positano

I’ve never tasted this pasta dish until I toured the Amalfi coast, the southern coast of Italy in 2009 and every household would have a lemon tree for making their famous Limoncello (liqueur made out of lemon zest) and for pasta and seafood.

Town of Positano

Town of Positano

Limoncello at markets

Limoncello at markets

Roadside market

Roadside market







We stayed in the town of Positano where the scenery is breathtaking and food is fresh from the vines and the sea. Try this easy recipe and its summer in a bowl. It can be a great main dish on pasta nights or as a side dish with grilled vegetables or meat or fish. Your family will love this classic recipe, giving a change from tomato or cream sauces.

Spaghetti Al Limone from Positano

Spaghetti al Limone

Spaghetti al Limone

Prep time 5 min                Cooking time 8 min         Serves 6 (as a side dish)


450 g spaghetti (dry pasta)

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

3 green onions, finely chopped

2 lemons, juiced and zest grated separately

2 tbsp capers (optional)

½ tsp chili flakes (optional)

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 tbsp grated parmesan

Freshly ground pepper

Salt for taste

2 tbsp chopped parsley

2 tbsp chopped basil

¼ cup pasta water (save it before you drain the pasta)


  1. In a small bowl whisk together:  3 tbsp olive oil, the lemon juice, lemon zest, freshly ground pepper and salt for taste, parmesan and mix well and keep aside
  2. In a stock pot cook the spaghetti according to package direction – keep it al dente and warm (firm but not hard) *Save ¼ cup of pasta water for sauce. **Do not run cold water on the pasta after it’s been drained
  3. In the same stock pot – heat  1 tbsp of olive oil and add garlic and sauté, then add chili and green onions and sauté  – do not overcook, we just want the green onion softened a bit
  4. Add capers and turn off the heat and add lemon juice mixture and mix
  5. Toss the spaghetti with the lemon sauce little at a time, if its dry add pasta water, little at a time until you get the consistency you want and fold in the parsley and basil
  6. The pasta should taste lemony and fresh – if you like sprinkle more parmesan on top and serve immediately as it should be served warm

Nutritional Analysis per 1 serving as a side dish: 150 g (5 oz): Calories 207; Carbohydrate 24g; Fibre 1g; Fat 9g; Saturated fat 10g; Sodium 100 mg; Protein 5g


Preparation at Saint Jean Pied de Port

Chapter 8 – Getting things ready for the Camino (Day 0)

When we decided to do the first part of the Camino (until Logrono) we had decided to book our hotels and arrange for a baggage pickup through a British travel company.  Before starting the walk, we were just finishing a business trip/vacation from Europe so it made sense to have our suitcases moved and carry a daypack with necessary things for the day.  Having pre-booked our hotels didn’t mean that we would be driven around; it was our responsibility to get to each stop at the end of the day and check into the accommodation that was set months ago.

At the tourist office

At the tourist office

The maps from the travel company were identical to the main Camino route that every pilgrim undertakes.  Since I was going back to the Camino in late summer this was a trial to see if I could do this all on my own as I was a bit nervous traveling by myself as a person with type1 diabetes. Not that I needed hand holding but for low sugars, emergencies as I was pretty nervous about climbing the Pyrenees alone as I heard it’s pretty hard and so it made sense for me to have my partner with me just in case. He was happy and willing and he also felt that he hadn’t done a walking holiday in many years and he felt it was time to do one together.

Our adventure started together – see Chapter 5 (Getting to Saint Jean Pied de Port). Once we got to Saint Jean Pied de Port (SJPP) the trick was to find out hotel with our massive suitcase dragging through the street as there were taxis.  We asked for our hotel name and we ran into a lady who spoke very good English and pointed to the old town. Perhaps they are used to people with big backpacks not massive suitcases like we were moving into an apartment, it did look funny. The heat in the midday was exhausting but not more than a kilometer in the old part of the town we found our beautiful hotel and our room had an amazing balcony overlooking the village and the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Leaving the luggage in the room we took the opportunity to have lunch in the town as it was closer to 2pm. There were travelers from all over Europe, some walking the Camino and some with family taking few days off to do bit of hike and enjoy the village. We decided to try the Pilgrim menu as most bars, restaurants, alburges along the Camino serve a set course meal with appetizer, main course with dessert and some include a glass of wine or beverage of your choice all under 10 euro. We were recommended to try the Irouleguy rose wine which was produced locally. The wine was light and crisp, refreshing with perfect with our stewed chicken with mushrooms, delicious!







Irouleguy, a local wine – Irouleguy was already being produced in the 14th and 15th centuries by canons in Roncevaux (Roncesvalles). The vineyards extend over 120 hectares and across some twenty communes, producing both reds and roses. This Basque wine obtained “appellation d’origine” status in 1970.







After lunch we went to the tourist office to get our passports. It was hard to explain the feelings inside as I was about to embark on something totally different and my life after this experience would change forever. The tourist office is run by many volunteers who are so happy to see you and their first question was what language we spoke so they could direct us to the right table. A lovely gentleman greeted us so kindly and asked us few questions like where we had come from as it was also for data collection and was happy to see so many Canadians had come through, none that day. We signed our name on the register, explained about two existing paths to get to Roncesvalles and he prepared our passports.

When I started my Camino training in March I decided that I was going to climb the Pyrenees – it was something that I always wanted to do, conquer a summit in my life. And when I heard there were two paths, one through the mountain called Route de Napolean 25.1 km (adjusted for climb 32 km) summit 1450m and another route called Route Valcarlos 24 km (adjusted for climb 29 km) summit 900m there was no question. I’ve heard the scenery is spectacular despite the arduous climb.

I also thought it was automatic that you would get your Camino shell after you register but it’s not a requisite that everyone carries one. It was a personal decision for everyone. So we decided to carry one so we donated some money in a basket and select our own shell. It was quite special for me.








This shell would walk the entire trip with me and share all my burden, happiness, all the beauty along the way. So I just didn’t pick the one on the top but found one that would be my companion.  It was already threaded so I all I had to do was to tie to securely on my pack when I got back to the room.

After our trip to the tourist office we explored the town – see chapter 6 (Camino Santiago Passports, Stamps & Symbols). We also decided go for a walk to familiarize ourselves to see the Camino path and where to pick up Route de Napoleon so that we wouldn’t miss it the next day with all the excitement. It was quite and non descript but the hair on my back still stoop up as I was would be on that path in the next 12 hours and my exciting journey would start.






Went back to the room and got our packs and boots ready for the morning as our plan was to start as early as possible.  After another amazing dinner at our hotel overlooking the mountains we retired to our room setting the alaram for 6am.

Thought of the day: All this preparation, I am on autopilot!

Buen Camino!

Saint Jean Pied de Port

Chapter 7 – History of Saint Jean Pied de Port

A capital at base of Navarra

Legend dates founding of the town to the king of Pamplona, Garcia Ximenez in the year 716. However it was only in the end of 12th century that the name San Juan del Pie de Portus officially appeared as the most important town of the Merindad d’Ultrapuertos following the signing of a deed by king Sancho VII the Strong, the king of Navarre. Saint Jean Pied de Port owes its name to its geographical location at the foot of the ports or passes of the Pyrenees and its subsequent protectors firstly St. John the Evangelist and then St. Jean the Baptist.





The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page – Augustine of Hippo

Historical post at the base of Pyrenees

As a stronghold, a frontier and a commercial crossroads at the foot of the Pyrenees, Saint Jean Pied de Port has always been an important staging post on one of Europe’s oldest routes between France and Spain.  Since the 12th century when the pilgrimages were at the peak thousands of pilgrims have flocked to the Basque country along from three major French routes. These pilgrims came from all over Europe to worship the tomb of Apostle Saint James at the further most tip of Galicia in North West Spain. Seen as a “peregrination” for those wishing to save their souls and redeem their sins the pilgrim’s ways converge at the village of Ostabat to form a single route to Saint Jean le Vieux and then on to Saint Jean Pied de Port, otherwise known as the “gateway to the Cize passes” the last stage before the daunting climb over the Pyrenees. Over the centuries the “ports de Cize” routes in this area have been used as a transhumance path, a Roman road, an invasion route, a pilgrims way to Santiago de Compostela, a military thoroughfare as well as a popular destination for modern day hikers.


The Citadel  at Saint Jean Pied de Port

At the beginning of 16th Century the medieval style castle built on the hillside was severely damaged by Spaniards troops after a siege. The context of permanent wars between Spain and France, determined to make the decision of Saint Jean Pied de Port a “defensive stronghold” between Pamplona and Bayonne. It is in the decades 1620 that “the citadel” took shape. The city became a strategic military headquarters for French troops enabling them to emerge from the citadel to attack Spanish forces. Through many centuries Citadel has been a military convoy. Having lots its status as a military building in 1920 it’s classified as Historical Monument in 1963, now houses a school.






Most pilgrims arrive to Saint Jean Pied de Port and go to the tourist office to get their passport and leave right away to conquer the Pyrenees or arrive with little time to enjoy as it’s a tricky place to get to. If you arrive to Saint Jean Pied de Port give yourself few hours to enjoy the village as it’s beautiful and it was an important place in throughout history.






We were so happy to arrive here in the mid afternoon to get our passports done, gather food & water supply for the next day so that we could enjoy the village and rest for the night before tackling the Pyrenees. The is SJPP is filled with pilgrim albergues, souvenior shops and even water fountains containing the Camino shell symbol.












Buen Camino!

*Excerpts from Verbissimo, Jean-Paul  LaCourt, Marquette Lionel  Guilliorit

Camino Santiago Passports, Stamps & Symbols

Chapter 6 – Camino Santiago Symbols, what are they about?

Travel brings power and love back into your life – Rumi

I’ve talked about much of my preparation for the Camino but I haven’t really talked about the process of the Camino, how one walks the Camino path. When I heard about the Camino I started to research about it – I could find tons of website and blogs and there was a symbol that kept showing up over and over again – it was the scallop shell. The scallop shell signifies rebirth and it’s the symbol of Camino and the apostle Saint James and the French call it Coquilles Saint Jacques (Scallops of Saint James/Jacob)

Legend of the Santiago de Compostela

Who was Saint James? Why did so many of his followers or pilgrims take the road to Compostela as early as year 1000? According to the bible James the Greater was one of Christ’s first apostles who died in Jerusalem in the year 44 AD. He said to be been beheaded by order of King Herod Agrippa, who was apposed to the new religion. Legend has it two disciples brought his body back by boat to Galicia where the tomb was discovered by 9th century by a hermit who was led to it by a star. Relic worship was widespread at the time and the site rapidly took on its vocation as a major pilgrimage center comparable with Jerusalem and Rome. Campus Stellae or “filed of stars” became Santiago de Compostela and this town tip of Galicia soon built a Romanesque church that was to become one of the most imposing Gothic Cathedrals in Europe.







From all the pictures of the Camino the directional sign to Santiago were all directed by the shell using it as a walkway symbol or a yellow arrow sign pointing to a direction to walk ahead. From my trip I’ve seen the yellow arrow on rocks, roads, trees and trust me you will be happy to see it on your path so that you don’t miss your path. The scallop shell is also modified like a sunburst used sideways signifying many paths around Europe leading to one meeting point, Santiago! How cool is that!

When the pilgrims start the Camino everyone gets a passport called “credentials” from the tourist office at the starting point (in my case at St. Jean PP) a passport where each pilgrim will register their personal information. Once a pilgrim obtains a passport then they can collect stamps to indicate that they have passed the proper Camino path through various villages. The passport is used as a credential to get accommodations at albergues (Hostel, Pension). When you reach Santiago, to get the Compostela (the Camino certificate) the passport is examined at the Tourist office to make sure all the necessary stamps,  the last 100 km have been walked by the pilgrim. So these stamps are given out in most albergues, churches and municipal offices – they are unique to each place. But all the stamps are verified and the certificates are given out to everyone who walks the Camino to Santiago.

My passport, my first stamp from SJPP and Camino Shell

My passport, my first stamp from SJPP and Camino Shell

You are also asked a question at the Tourist office why you walked the Camino – this is not a test question that one must pass but to let one reflect on the whole journey and answer why they did the walk and then you are given the certificate. I have a degree in Computer Science, Diploma for Culinary Arts, many awards and certificates but I think this one will be very special to me. This certificate is not easy to get – and it’s not about how fast or how many days it took to finish rather how one did the walk and the quality of it. This is truly a reflection of oneself how you want to do the Camino walk.

Santiago de Compostela for me!

I’ve given permission to myself to do something totally different where my body and soul hope to work in synch without being too hard and judgemental about myself. I also hope to find a balance in my life, balance my blood sugar with the heavy physical activity and to achieve a taste/test of walking close to 880 km where I’ve done this similar distance by plans, trains and automobiles but never by foot and that’s some achievement I can do and be proud of. Especially with type1 diabetes (T1D), I’ve never challenged myself to long physical activity where I can really speak to so many others challenged by diabetes who limit themselves to travel or long distance physical activity that they can with proper planning and training.

Buen Camino!