Walking the Catalan Camino to Tamarit

A couple of days ago, I walked from Tarragona or Tarraco near the Costa Daurada  in Catalunya (Catalonia) to the old Romanesque fort at Tamarit.

It was a walk of about 12km from my hotel in Tarragona down to the platja (beach), and up through the pine forests that hug the Mediterranean.

As I walked I was thinking; thinking about urban life versus the country or coastal country.

City life, life in Tarragona, Barcelona, Edinburgh, London, Newcastle, Paris, Madrid or any city is about pretence. It’s about keeping up appearences, about playing a type of game, the game of keeping everything going, always.

When you think about it, life in cities is always about the same thing; paying rent or paying the bank for your house, meeting friends, working or looking for work, or studying, watching the faces of people as they are consumed by their ‘business’, and meeting your own sort of hidden agendas. Life in cities is also about the dangerous game of ‘ego’; dressing the part, keeping up with the latest trends, having enough ‘stuff’ to fill the void of some type of existence. It’s also about protection, the guarding of one’s physical safety against the perpetrators of crime.

You get up, you get dressed in an outfit that will suit the type of day that you are expecting to have, you consume the fuel needed to keep the day going, you plan your meetings, your work, your study, your friendship time, your downtime and your evenings. You don’t hear the birds or admire the contours of the waves (no time), you’re a slave to your phone and your computer and the endless pointless emails that clutter up your inbox. You rush this way and that and you don’t notice that everyone else is doing exactly the same thing as you, wearing similar clothes, clutching similar style smart phones, a stressed, stretched face pinched with thought, tired with responsibility.

All for what.

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Now, back on the Camino de Tamarit, there I was, with my soft sports sandals, my skirt and top, my sunscreen and sunglasses, my bottle of water and a little bag, and I was in a pine forest with no one around and the Mediterranean on my right side as I walked. The earth was rugged and soft at the same time, the Mediterranean was rough and noisy. It was saying to me, keep going, just keep walking. And I did. I met no one, which surprised me. I walked on and on for 12km guided on by the patrins – the marks on the rocks which signalled the way.

My thoughts were; this is bliss, this is heaven, this is a non-judgmental space in which to just ‘be’. There is no one here to say – you’re just not good enough, you’re defective, you’re done, you’ve been made redundant, you’re useless, you’re can’t compete in that city world where image and competence is everything.

The scent of the pine forests reminded me of my dad and our holidays in Catalonia in the late 1960s and how he made me feel, safe and accepted, a little girl with absolutely nothing to fear. And now in 2018 in the Spanish pine forests that border the Mediterranean I felt at home, rid of the anxiety of trying to fit in. I felt safe and I made it to Tamarit as a storm broke and it started to rain.

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The State of Loud – finding quiet in a chaotic world

I suffer from sensory overload, which means that the over-stimulation of the modern world causes me physical pain and anxiety.

I have a strategy for when this over-stimulation happens (regularly) and a map in my mind of places I can go – for free – where I can take a few moments to get myself back in control when the state of loud becomes too much.

I hope my tips help you. All these places are free and you should not ever encounter any objection to being there, so go for it, if you find life in the state of loud too much.

These are my favourite calm places in Edinburgh, there a many, many more in this beautiful city, but the list is just for starters.

1. Public gardens
The National Health Service (NHS) Astley Ainslie Hospital and Royal Edinburgh Hospital grounds on the South Side of the city, are stunningly beautiful and free to walk through and enjoy.

There are many, many places within these two hospital sites that have special spots to sit still and enjoy nature, with no one rushing you or telling you to move on. If you’re in Edinburgh city centre, and can’t get to the South Side of town, try going to the idyllic Water of Leith where you can meander for miles in peace and quiet along the famous Water of Leith river-way and listen to the tinkle of water as you walk by.

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2. Prayer rooms at airports – airports are hell for introverts but if you’re sick and tired of the neon lights, piped musak and glittering shops begging you to buy endless quantities of stuff, then head to airport’s prayer room. Every airport has a prayer room and it’s usually empty. Sit there and gather your thoughts for a few minutes, enjoy the peace and quiet and get your energy back to face the world. Prayer rooms are free spaces to use and you don’t have to be religious to use them.

3. Libraries  – it’s goes without saying that libraries are safe and quiet spaces with which to engage with your mind, without the rabble of car traffic and endless people. You don’t need a library card, just go find your seat and listen to your own heart beating while you scan the glorious bookshelves. There are always toilets too.

4. Galleries – exhibition spaces – my favourite quiet gallery space in Edinburgh is the National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street. It has a sublime central foyer area that has benches around it (you’ll always get a spot). Its stunningly beautiful, stained glass windows dapple the light. Portraits of famous Scots will stare down at you as you sit in the peace and quiet, and contemplate your own inner world. It’s also next to the loos too and that’s handy. It’s free, central, gorgeous and my top place for a bit of inner city soul reflection.

5. Churches – mosques – I am not religious but I really value the inner world of silence that is always prominent in religious buildings, so find a church or a mosque (although I don’t know the policy on just walking into a mosque) and go sit, think, and regain your energy before you head back out into this chaotic world. They are free to use and you don’t have to be religious to use them. No one will bother you, ever, so take the time to use them. That’s what they are there for, even if you don’t believe in god, chances are you are spiritual in some respects, or if not, maybe by using these places you will become spiritual.

6. Theatre foyers – another Edinburgh quiet space favourite are theatre foyers. You can go sit a theatre foyer and no one will ask you what you are doing there. You can gather your thoughts and take a big slice of peace and quiet, all for free. Take time to admire the theatre posters from yesteryear that will almost always be gracing the walls of any theatre foyer.

Edinburgh is my city and I adore it. It’s a city full of special places and with nature and quiet spaces weaving through it. You will know the quiet spaces in your own town/city. Use them regularly and get your mojo back every single day. You’ll feel better for it.