Europe
28th July 2005 - 27th Sept 2005

For place names where I've stopped on route and a brief description, move your mouse over the red markers.

Paris. I stayed with June for a  few days in Paris before taking my flight back to Shanghai. I had a flight from Toulouse to Paris already booked but I wasn't able to do a stop over so instead I got a direct overnight train from Barcelona to Paris. Alicante. Steve, Jim and their families were over from England at their villa for a holiday and invited me down to spend a few days with them. A rare chance to do very little and just sit by a pool. Ripoll. The retreat centre was set at 1000m in the mountains in fantastic stone built buildings. The first retreat was a deep rest retreat, something I was in desperate need of. I spent almost the whole week, nearly all day and night sleeping, frequently waking up in the meditation hall to find it was deserted as everybody else had long since gone. I couldn't believe how many hours I was sleeping, but I was not alone. It is suprising how instantly and willingly the body will seize the opportunity to rest when the guilt is removed by somebody 'giving you permission to sleep' to the extent that they insist that you do. I thought I had learnt my lesson on the same retreat the previous year, but clearly I had more to learn about the value and importance of rest. Following the deep rest retreat a few of us hung out on the mountain, which was a wonderfull chance to chat and connect, before the Raku retreat began. Raku is the Japenese art of making pottery through meditation. The days following the Raku weekend the remaining weirdos gently departed. Girona. After about 5 trains and 15 hours of travelling, because of a long delay at a connecting train inToulouse I missed the last connecting buses from Girona to Ripoll. It would have been relatively simple to hitch a lift but after a long day my batteries were on empty so instead I booked a hotel which was suprisingly difficult to find one with a vacancy, and stayed the night in Girona catching the first bus in the morning. Barcelona. I stayed for a few days on my own at George and Chloes appartment as they were away on holiday. I was due to leave earlier but I was invited  to a Hari Krishna celebration in honour of his birthday. Curiosity got the better of me so I stayed until after the celebration. Afterwards I headed to Alicante to visit friends before returning to spend an extra 3 weeks with George and Chloe, I only expected to stay 3 or 4 days but met complications whilst arranging my Chinese visa. It entailed 3 visits to the visa office and  and a complete medical, including ECG, Xrays and blood tests. Only to find upon my return to China, that the 1 year visa that I thought I had attained was in fact only for 30 days, so I needed to re-apply and undergo the medical examinations again. Despite making several inquiries upon my return I didn't learn this until I had only 3 days remaining in China. Saint Amant de Graves. We ended our walk and the Yatra  at the Tapovan meditation centre, which used to be a Japenese Zen Monestry. When neccessity came into play or people felt the time was right they gradually drifted away and returned to wherever they were going even if, as was often the case, they didn't know where that might be. I was due to head into Spain with friends for other retreats and to spend a few days camping by a lake on route. Until I discovered some friends, Ange and Neil and their sons were over from England and only about half an hour away. So instead I caught a train over to spend a couple of days with them and made my own way into Spain. I caught the train to Perigueux as although Bordeaux was closer to my destination the Chinese airline was insistent Bordeaux didn't have an airport. Some battles arn't worth fighting! I had missed the first week of the Yatra, as the doctors wouldn't let me fly, but met it half way through for the final week. We walked in silence for up to 6 hours a day and then, outside of formal mediatation, were able to speak if we so wished. For me, this was a good combination, as there were about 200 people from over 22 countries most of whom had wonderfully rich colourful stories, pasts and ways of living, it seemed a shame not to be able to get small taste and flavour of some of these, no matter how briefly. The walking was not meant to be taxing but merely sedate as the Yatra attracted all ages and physical conditions, but I found to my frustration that as a result of the crash I no longer had the boundless energy I am used to. hence was unable to do all the walking or participate as fully as I would have liked. The organisers were well aware of my conditition and so were very accomodating, but I finally learn't some important lessons about rest and taking things a little slower. Toulous. I arrived in Toulouse exhausted after the 12 hour overnight flight to Paris and then spending most of the day waiting at Charles de Gaul airport for my connection. I didn't yet realise how tired I actually was, mainly due to the car crash in China. It felt good to back in Europe, I had been in Asia since December '04, but I wasn't prepared for the culture shock that Toulouse proved to be. I was unaware of how much I had adapted to the culture and way of life in China. I spent 2 days trying to recharge batteries, sitting in street cafes watching the world go by  in facination and at times astonishment. Adjusting to the change of language was interesting if not extremely difficult, I found myself listening in French and often had to stop myself from answering in Chinese. Spain was to prove even more challenging. 28th July I flew into Toulouse, via Paris  from Shanghai. I went to Europe to attend some meditation retreats in France and Spain. Returned to China 27th Sept '05 after attending the retreats, flew from Paris to Shanghai.