Camino de Santiago

21 01 2018

Many years ago when I started out in the wine business and began to learn about Spanish wines I heard talk about the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Western Spain.  It would probably have been 1992 that I first heard of it.  When studying Rioja in particular I was told that a lot of the indigenous varieties could have been derived from other grapes brought as vine cuttings from the pilgrims who came along this route, sometimes referred to as The Way or El Camino de Santiago de Compostela.  Vines are very resilient and small, when dormant they are basically a stick that would be easy to transport and offer as a gift to those that would offer these pilgrims lodging.  I was so intrigued that people would make this pilgrimage to the Cathedral.  While raised Roman Catholic and somewhat spiritual, at the time I did not find myself to be very religious.  I did not bother to learn about St. James, one of the apostles of Jesus, who is buried there, or to learn much more about the journey, but in the back of my mind I always thought, “Someday I will like to walk that route!”  I placed it on a bucket list way in the back of my brain where it sat there mainly dormant like those vine cuttings for many years.

After graduating from Cornell University, I worked in Nantucket at the Brotherhood of Thieves and Island Spirits, then onto Manhattan at Windows on the World and the Vista Hotel at the World Trade Center and eventually Myriad Restaurant Group (Montrachet, Nobu, Tribeca Grill and Reebok Sports Club).  In 1996 I decided move to California to work at Rubicon in San Francisco.  All this time I was in the program studying for the Master of Wine, starting by getting my Diploma shortly after my move to SF.  I left Rubicon to work at Jardiniere, my first Wine Director position and after a few years there jumped out of the nest to become a consultant.  One of my first big consulting jobs was with Wines From Spain working as their Rioja Ambassador in San Francisco.  I worked for them for five years, and traveled to Rioja, twice.  My favorite city there?  Of course Logrono known for the incredible tapas bars where 10 cents (at least then) got you a tumbler of wine and the tapas are different in each bar, and absolutely delicious.

Throughout these journeys I visited wineries, walked amongst the vines and saw ancient Roman ruins.  I stepped on a snake in the wet underground cellar that houses an ancient spring at CVNE and ate great meals throughout the region.  Not once did it cross my mind that I was basically on the Camino right there.

RIOJA Group

Years after the Rioja program ended I worked with Ribera del Duero.  During those two years once again it never crossed my mind that Ribera is also on the Camino.  I never had the opportunity to visit that region though, despite my time spent working with them.

So as time did plod along I flitted about with writing, teaching, other trade jobs and event management for SF Chefs, also called Eat Drink SF.  In more recent years I found myself shifting most of my time to the east coast and working the seasonal life out on Nantucket, a big challenge as the winter doesn’t offer much possibility.  I started by going back and forth continually between SF and Nantucket, but soon found I was missing out on the height of the season the lucrative summer on the island.  From 2015 to 2016 I took on jobs at a cheese shop, waiting tables, craft fairs and the farmer’s market, sommelier stints and even working at the Nantucket Whaling Museum I tried to piece together a bi-coastal life, fighting to find something sustainable year round.

Finally this past spring something unimaginable occurred when I bid on a small snack bar/gift shop owned by the Town of Nantucket and got the opportunity to make it my very own business.  Located right on the water at Children’s Beach I was able to make this small shack my very own, but as with any business the first year is all about learning.  It was not lost on my that our own customers were also doing things for the first time.  Babies learning how to eat, little kids learning how to count money and get change, employees for whom it was their very first job.  This restaurant, The Hungry Minnow was born when I wrote the proposal in late February, I was told I got the contract on March 1 and the newborn Minnow was revealed to the world on May 27, not a lot of time.  I worked the first 20 days completely solo, no helpers, except Madison Joslin and Shannon Considine and two workers who helped me get the health permit and the tireless efforts by the Department of Public Works to help me with structural and equipment issues, but on a daily basis just me.  It was kind of good because it helped me streamline the flow of the restaurant.  Eventually I hired kids, literally, with help part time from one 21 year old the rest were 17, and 14.  I had a 19 year old for a bit too, but that was short lived.  103 days of straight work led to a slower pace in the fall, but there is no heat in the building so the water was drained for the season and The Hungry Minnow is now shuttered.  Literally boarded up.  And so once again I found myself struggling to figure out what I am supposed to do over the winter, how to make ends meet and get through the debt and uncertain times.

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Now over the last few years it seems that there was a budding of this idea of the walk in my head that was growing without me even knowing it.  Years ago I was invited to see a movie premiere in SF called “The Way”, I happened to be on some press list.  I had no idea what it was about, but I was intrigued because Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen were going to be there to discuss the film.  I’d had a crush on Emilio ever since I met him at a Cesar Chavez rally in NYC in the late 80’s.  Towards the end of the film they turned up to get our reactions, no doubt trialing a few different endings, meanwhile I was sobbing with emotion, and I could feel that first tendril of an idea creeping out of that bucket list that I must do this walk sometime.

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I discussed this walk with my dear friend Elmy Bermejo and her daughter Elmy Junior, proprietors at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant, basically my adopted family.  We had always talked about how amazing it would be to go on this journey together…I also invited friends to join me, but often these talks were fueled by delicious margaritas.  I feel that the beauty of tequila is it (for me) allows my brain to let go of rational thoughts and inspires me to follow my heart.  Listen to my song Tequila Talking to understand what I mean…

Just this past September I was surprised when in the vineyards in Napa I overheard one of the other sommeliers in our group say, “I sold everything I owned and went on the Camino”.  It piqued my interest and I immediately attacked her with questions.  She smiled at me she said something like, “You are already going, you’ve been asked to go, so just do it.  Buen Camino.”

Fast forward again to this place of insecurity, this November or December I awoke (and as is my bad habit) went to Facebook to see what was up and my friend Suzy had just posted that she was going to do the walk and who would want to go.  Here it was, my calling.

Suzy lives in Morocco, and we met in a very interesting way, which I will tell you about a little later, but because of that it seemed exactly the right thing to do.  How could I leave?  How could I afford it?  How could I afford not to.

It is becoming clear to me that I really have no choice in the matter, the idea to walk that came to me many years ago was dormant but was firmly planted and it only needed time and watering to start to grow.  It is my job to do this journey, no doubt there is a higher power calling me to do it.  Ever since I decided to book the tickets I have felt more peace than before.  I am not meant to work 100% of the time, this off season is intended and given to me as a gift so I can care for my roots, water them and let them bud in the spring.  I need to stop fighting the seasonality and embrace it, it is a gift.  And then, my friends I will be able to share that gift with you.

Almost every song I write has an element of this message, and calls me to walk, it’s so funny that I could write these songs yet not listen to my own words!

Carpe Diem ©Rebecca Chapa

“Well I can’t tell you where I’m going, I don’t remember where I’ve been storm clouds seem to be blowing, I’m walking straight into the wind.  I feel just like an apparition, a pilgrim in purgatory, on the way to the next Mission, seeds to sow and crops to reap.”

Yesterday I arrived back in SF from the east coast for a few weeks.  I opened up my closet and found a brand new pair of Vasque hiking boots just waiting there for me.  I started my training leaving home at 12:15 pm and walking 8.39 miles straight up and across San Francisco, getting to the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers tasting at Pier 27 at 4pm.  About an hour into the walk I found myself doubting my abilities.  The litany of excuses began… I can’t do this, my toes are numb, I must be horribly feeble, I for sure have a nerve injury, these boots are going to hurt, my shoe is untied, this hill is crazy.  But as I crested that first big rise I felt empowered looking down at the Pacific sweeping in and out of the San Francisco Bay, and so I kept on walking.  I pinged my friends with a #Chapachat video and found support from them…  and onward I went.  So please join me on this journey, this pilgrimage I am going to make, we will see what I discover along the way and I look forward to sharing it with you.

SO I want you to know this is not a commercial endeavor, but I do need to figure out how to fund this trip.  I hate to monetize a spiritual endeavor.  I feel I need to do this trip, alas I do not have unlimited funding to do so.  But I do feel that I was called to go…that said, I would like to try to offset my expenses and time away from work as much as possible.  My blog will still be open and free to so you can read about what I am learning.  All sponsored posts will be honestly and clearly prefaced with that information.

Would you like to help me on my walk?

Currently seeking SUPPORT, SPONSORSHIP, AND DONATIONS.

SUPPORT: Good intentions are VERY welcome and appreciated.  I appreciate your support whether or not you can make a contrbution at this time.  Your love is considered a donation as well.

SPONSOR: If you are affiliated with or know a company that may be a fit please contact me at 415 378-1674 or ambergrisart@gmail.com.  Think fitness, hiking, nutrition, training, etc. While I am trying to be very lean and resourceful, I still need some vital gear, trek pants, sunscreen, silk bed liners, sleeping bag/blanket, poles, etc. Used gear also welcome. If there is an item of gear you’d like to donate please let me know and I will add that to my website and bring that intention along to Santiago.  Please contact me at ambergrisart@gmail.com.

I am creating an official sponsor deck to help offset my expenses of leaving for five weeks and the costs of the journey, to receive the deck please contact me at ambergrisart@gmail.com  Below are donations intended for individuals.  For sponsorship please contact me directly.

DONATE: If you would like to donate, no amount is too small.  You could donate to my PayPal account here and I will be creating a more detailed offering soon.  I would be happy to include your loved ones on my walk, I can include them upon my arrival or in my daily prayers.  You can also sponsor a mile for them…  For that I will send a certificate of completion to them saying that the mile or prayers were purchased in their honor.

Some ideas:

Suggested Offerings: (these are guidelines, please suggest your intention)

$5

Your name or name of a loved one in your honor brought to Santiago de Compostela and verbally included in prayers upon completion of the walk.

$10

Your name or name of a loved one in your honor brought to Santiago de Compostela and verbally included in prayers upon completion of the walk.

Your name or name of a loved one in your honor recited in daily prayers along The Way.

$20

Your name or name of a loved one in your honor brought to Santiago de Compostela and verbally included in prayers upon completion of the walk.

Your name or name of a loved one in your honor recited in daily prayers along The Way.

AND Sponsored Mile for you or someone you love with Certificate of Completion.

$35

Your name or name of a loved one in your honor brought to Santiago de Compostela and verbally included in prayers upon completion of the walk.

Your name or name of a loved one in your honor recited in daily prayers along The Way.

Sponsored Mile for you or someone you love with Certificate of Completion.

Shout Out on Instagram and Facebook for you or your loved one (non exclusive)

$50

Your name or name of a loved one in your honor brought to Santiago de Compostela and verbally included in prayers upon completion of the walk.

Your name or name of a loved one in your honor recited in daily prayers along The Way.

Sponsored Mile for you or someone you love with Certificate of Completion.

Shout Out on Instagram and Facebook for you or your loved one

Personalized Post Card from the route to the address of your choice

$75

Your name or name of a loved one in your honor brought to Santiago de Compostela and verbally included in prayers upon completion of the walk.

Your name or name of a loved one in your honor recited in daily prayers along The Way.

Sponsored Mile for you or someone you love with Certificate of Completion.

Shout Out on Instagram and Facebook for you or your loved one

Personalized Post Card from the route to the address of your choice

VIDEO Shout out on Instagram for you or your loved one (non exclusive)

$250

Your name or name of a loved one in your honor brought to Santiago de Compostela and verbally included in prayers upon completion of the walk.

Your name or name of a loved one in your honor recited in daily prayers along The Way.

Sponsored Mile for you or someone you love with Certificate of Completion.

Shout Out on Instagram and Facebook for you or your loved one

Personalized Post Card from the route to the address of your choice

VIDEO Shout out on Instagram for you or your loved one (non exclusive)

Name written on a scallop shell to be displayed along The Way on my pack

Personalized Prayer Recited for you at Santiago de Compostela

$750

Your name or name of a loved one in your honor brought to Santiago de Compostela and verbally included in prayers upon completion of the walk.

Your name or name of a loved one in your honor recited in daily prayers along The Way.

Sponsored Mile for you or someone you love with Certificate of Completion.

Shout Out on Instagram and Facebook for you or your loved one

Personalized Post Card from the route to the address of your choice

VIDEO Shout out on Instagram for you or your loved one (non exclusive)

Name written on a scallop shell to be displayed along The Way on my pack

Personalized Prayer Recited for you at Santiago de Compostela

Item (must be less than 8 oz) brought to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (must receive item by 3/15/18)

Please consider a donation to The Hungry Minnow fund at GoFundMe.com here

Some more fun lyrics.

Sleepwalking:

“If I’m scared and second guess and feel like giving up, remind me it’s not where you end just walking is enough, miles to go, off road.”

Road to Know Where:

“It’s not the destination it’s the road, on the road I’m free, I could keep on driving can’t you see?  The future morphs with yesterday, nothing matters but today, it’s ok if I never get there, but I’m on a road to know where.”

Missing Someone All the Time:

“These boots weren’t made for staying, so I gotta get going, but I’m missing someone all the time”

Where My Soul Belongs:

“And so today the more I roam I know that I’m always home, where my soul belongs.”

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