Ever wondered what it would be like to walk The Camino or as it’s also called “The Way?” David Downie, the author of Paris to the Pyrenees asked the same question. Travelers from all over the world trek The Camino for different reasons seeking answers. While his reason was not of a spiritual nature he still asked the age old question before his hike of “what is life all about.” Before his walk across France to the Pyrenees David was diagnosed with viral hepatitis; he was undergoing liver failure. He had had his life touched with other health scares in the past but this time he took pause to his diagnosis and questioned his health habits and lifestyle of being a travel and food writer. He had eaten delicious food over the years and not headed the warning it would one day harm him until now. And this is where the story begins.
Though he continued with his self-proclaimed “this is not a spiritual quest” as he sets off to walk to Pyrenees it soon becomes one as he is left with questions from people he meets along the way and reflects on his own life as well as his wife’s. In time he relents to calling himself a pilgrim when at first he scoffed at the notion. This book is not just about a walk across miles of land, it is about the interaction with human society and what can be drawn from different opinions and ways of life. How when one opens their minds to experience another person’s journey of enlightenment they are forevermore changed by that knowledge.
David takes us with him as he discovers the small things in life. His prose illuminates the page in a way that has one transfixed to each word. The scenery comes alive and even the taste of an apple can be smelled and sampled in one’s mind. There are little nuggets of wisdom and truth throughout the book that spark one’s own thoughts and at times makes one pause and reread: “We risk becoming normal, like everywhere else, a desert, practically”. There is meaning behind quotes like this and others throughout the book that keeps one wanting to read more. Not only is the page filled with beautiful language there are four sections of photography to bring imagery to his words. By the end of book I had the distinct inclination to look up David Downie on the internet and see if he had in fact decided to travel the rest of the Camino (Spanish section) as I was not ready for this book to come to a close. Nor was I ready for his unwillingly spiritual journey to end.