Tag Archives: travel

Meanwhile, Over in Paris

About a month ago I landed in Paris, where I’ve been hanging out and writing ever since.


Nikki Paris window 1

True confession: I spend way more time than I’d like to admit in more or less this position, watching the goings on down in the plaza below our apartment. Endlessly fascinating. And besides, isn’t that what you are supposed to do when in Paris? People-watch? It’s a national pastime here. 


On my author blog I’ve been posting a bit about being here…

P is for Pleading Paris

Eiffel tower locks river 2

Q is for Query Letters (in Paris)

Graffiti ronin P4307848.jpg

R is for Reading in Paris

Nikki Shakespear Co Paris 3

S is for Shut Up and Write (in Paris)

writer green-chameleon-21532

T is for Taking Time to Write (in Paris)


I’m off to do my daily ‘pop my head out of a new subway station and see what’s there’ mission. After I get back later tonight, I’ll post something on this poor, neglected blog about what I discover on my journey…


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First Steps on the Road to the Camino


It’s safe to say I have never felt quite this way about a trip before. When Dani first mentioned that she was thinking of taking Dad on the last 120 or so kilometres of the Camino de Santiago, I thought it was both the best and the worst idea she has ever had. I mean, Dad isn’t exactly striding around on long hikes the way he used to. He’s on the hunt for his 82nd birthday this year, but it’s kind of a slow motion, huffing and puffing kind of hunt.

That said, he’s still on his feet, sharp as ever, and busy creating new art projects. But recently, he has seemed a bit less enthusiastic about life. An aching hip and wheezy lungs have dampened his enthusiasm for vigorous exercise. Of course, taking it too easy can lead to a general feeling of blah, setting up a bit of a vicious cycle. Dani’s solution for this situation? A long hike across the Spanish countryside with her grandfather.

Hm. There are a lot of ways this could go terribly wrong. But at the same time, what an opportunity to take part in a venerable pilgrimage tradition with someone you care about deeply. When Dani first mentioned the idea, I desperately wanted to come, but it was Dani’s project and I could think of nobody better to walk with Dad on what was surely going to be a memorable journey. I nodded and tried to be gracious. 

When she asked me if I wanted to come along, you can imagine how long it took me to consider my answer. Hell, yes! (Sorry. Maybe that isn’t an appropriate expression of glee, given the nature of the expedition.)


Dani, Dad and I each have our official Camino passports, which we will get stamped at hostels along the way. We’ll stitch the Canadian patches somewhere on our packs.

Which is how it has come to pass that in the middle of moving, and getting ready to go sailing, and working on various writing projects that I now also find myself thinking about a trip that will be like no other I’ve ever undertaken. For one thing, I won’t be able to march at my usual crazy fast pace. I will be forced to smell the proverbial roses every step of the way. We’re planning to take 25 days, which also means we’ll be spending lots of time together in some challenging circumstances. What better way to bond with (or want to murder) your nearest and dearest?

Am I looking forward to this? Yes, of course. What an opportunity. Am I a tad concerned how this might go down? Yes, of course. I mean, what could possibly go wrong when three generations set off down a long and dusty (or muddy) road across Spain together?

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Why Fly?

Spotted this seagull at Sombrio Beach today, determined to get to the other side in his own, special way… A seagull walks over a bridge...

Home is Where the Travel Books Live (Photo 101)

Way back when I was a regular blogger I took up various ‘one a day’ challenges and found the discipline of coming up with a daily post both fun and useful. This month I am busy with a ton of writing assignments, so I thought it might be cool to participate in the WordPress Photography 101 course as, in theory, it might be faster to let those photos speak a thousand words on my behalf. The challenge today is to capture the idea of “Home” in an image.

Books - the cheapest travel tickets around...

Books – the cheapest travel tickets around…

Of course, the minute I started thinking about this theme I realized the answer wasn’t going to be quite as simple as photographing my front door. I currently call Vancouver Island my home, but for many, many years as I was growing up my family was constantly on the move. At some point when I was in  my early 20s Dad and I sat down to try to count up all the addresses where I had lived and we came up with 53. Our homes ranged from a tiny cabin in Banff where a grizzly sow and her cubs went through our garbage every morning to an apartment above a Chinese restaurant in Ontario (by then I had left home and was working as a dog catcher). From England to Australia, Fort McMurray to Vancouver, Fort Lauderdale to Guelph my homes ranged from simple to fancy, in great neighbourhoods and not so great neighbourhoods, on islands, in cities, or in the countryside.

Though the view outside our front door changed on a regular basis (as an artist and a photographer, Dad and Mom were pretty free to live wherever they fancied), some things remained constant. One was our family (we were a remarkably stable lot, considering our wandering ways) and another was our dedication to schlepping boxes of books all over the world.

Whenever we moved into a new place I would feel somewhat ungrounded until I started to unpack my books. I still have one of the very first books I was ever given, the Daily Mail’s Pictorial Animal Book. 

This one still has pride of place on the shelf, though it shares real estate with several thousand other titles...

This one still has pride of place on the shelf, though it shares real estate with several thousand other titles…


The idea of home and what it is and what it isn’t has long fascinated me and sooner or later, themes like this eventually find their way into my writing. Not long ago my daughter and I wrote a book called Take Shelter about the many different kinds of dwellings people live in all over the world. In the introduction I talk about my books and the way that unpacking them always made me feel at home.

Take Shelter

Ironically, some of my favourite books are those with travel themes because even though a good chunk of my life was somewhat unsettled, I have always loved to be on the move. A well-packed suitcase is a kind of home away from home, the essentials of life neatly organized in a way my life in my actual home rarely is.

These days my suitcase is usually a little lighter than in the past. I no longer have to pack half a dozen books just to be sure I have something on hand to suit my reading mood – the miracle of the modern e-reader means I can travel with a veritable library. But I always pack a paperback of some sort anyway – batteries die, devices get dropped overboard, electronic devices get stolen. Books, in all their clunky, heavy, awkward, prone-to-sogginess-when-read-in-the-bathiness are solid between the fingers. Maybe that’s why I’m so fond of them.

If this post seems a little, um… illogical – that’s perhaps because these two sides of my life and personality are fundamentally incompatible. On the one hand I love, love, love my books – putting them on shelves, reorganizing them, adding to the collection, culling the collection – stacking, dipping, flipping, browsing, reading, delving, devouring those books which are also some of my longtime companions… On the other hand, there are few things I like more than turning my back on my bookshelves, and checking that my passport, my plane ticket, and my comfortable shoes are packed in my bag. And that paperback, of course. Can’t leave home without that…

H is for Hula Hoop

There has been a lot of coming and going around here over the past few days and this has made me think about the odd things we take, leave behind, and bring back when we travel. Dad has just spent three weeks in Provence and England and the coolest thing he brought back was several jars of pigments. He plans to add these warm, earthy tones to linseed oil and paint a series of landscapes (he travelled from hill town to hill town, collecting a gazillion images and ideas…) using the actual colours of the place. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with. He has only been back a couple of days and is already at work in his studio. It shouldn’t be long before I can post something inspired by his recent travels.


Dad returned hugely inspired (and a bit out of breath from all the hiking he did).

Several of the Germans will be leaving by car tomorrow, heading for the USA. They will be leaving behind all manner of fruits and vegetables, which is rather bizarre when you consider most of the produce one buys around here these days originated south of the border. How is it logical that you can’t take an apple fifty miles south of here?? Because MC arrived during a snowstorm and is now heading for California, he is also leaving behind his winter coat and mucky farm clothes. Later this summer he will return to reclaim his [temporarily] abandoned clothing and help out again on the farm. Perhaps he will enjoy himself enough that he will stay through another change of season and will need his heavy coat once again… [H is also for hope… and I am hopeful this might come to pass…]


[Photo by Rob Campbell Photography]

Yesterday I had a quick chat with my friend Sylvia Olsen, the author of quite a few books and an expert knitter (among her books are Working with Wool: A Coast Salish Legacy and the Cowichan Sweater and Yetsa’s Sweater). She is heading off to a writing retreat in Ireland and we were chatting about how she will divide her time writing, knitting, and hula hooping. Hula hooping? Yep. Sylvia has a collapsible hula hoop with which she travels. Which is way more interesting than the fact I always travel with my personal pillow (it’s thin and all the hotels insist on HUGE fluffy pillows that make my neck ache).


My daughter never leaves home without her Rescue Remedy (she travels a lot but hates to fly and swears by putting a few drops under her tongue to get her through takeoffs and landings). When I mentioned Sylvia’s hula hoop, Dani reminded me that she used to travel with her juggling sticks and this, in turn, made me think of several trips I took years ago with a pink ballet tutu stuffed in my backpack. This was long after I stopped dancing, but I had this idea that I would write a collection of travel essays called Travels with Tutu. I did wind up with a handful of odd photos of a pink tutu placed artfully in unusual places (atop a mountain in Japan, on a huge log on a beach somewhere along the West Coast Trail), but somehow the concept failed to hold my attention long enough to collect enough essays to make a book. Part of the problem, I think, was that the pink tutu on its own was not that photogenic (or, I was not a good enough photographer to make the images work well enough to warrant inclusion in a book). This was long before the selfie became a thing, so it never even occurred to me to wear the tutu myself.

The idea of Sylvia hula hooping on the edge of some windblown Irish cliff makes me smile. I really hope she has someone take a photo of her and her hoop in some cool Irish locale so I can vicariously enjoy her trip!

All this made me wonder, what is the essential item you cannot leave home without when you travel? Have you ever left something behind on a journey, intentionally or not? What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever brought back with you after a trip?