Travels with My Donkey: One Man and His Ass on a Pilgrimage to Santiago

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"'A donkey?' blurted my family as one. For a moment it didn't seem they'd ever be able to list all the reasons that made this so entertainingly ludicrous. . . .Yes, I'd never ridden a donkey on a beach or petted one at a city farm, never even pinned a cardboard tail to one's throat after the cake and ice cream....A donkey would be my hairy-coated hair shirt, making my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela a truer test of the will, a trial."

With these words, having no knowledge of Spanish and even less about the ...

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Travels with My Donkey: One Man and His Ass on a Pilgrimage to Santiago

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Overview

"'A donkey?' blurted my family as one. For a moment it didn't seem they'd ever be able to list all the reasons that made this so entertainingly ludicrous. . . .Yes, I'd never ridden a donkey on a beach or petted one at a city farm, never even pinned a cardboard tail to one's throat after the cake and ice cream....A donkey would be my hairy-coated hair shirt, making my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela a truer test of the will, a trial."

With these words, having no knowledge of Spanish and even less about the care and feeding of donkeys, Tim Moore, Britain's indefatigable traveling Everyman, sets out on a pilgrimage to the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela with a donkey named Shinto as his companion. Armed only with the Codex Calixtinus, a twelfth-century handbook to the route, and expert advice on donkey management from Robert Louis Stevenson, Moore and his four-legged companion travel the ancient five-hundred-mile route from St. Jean Pied-de-Port, on the French side of the Pyrenees, to the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela, which houses the remains of Spain's patron saint, St. James. Over sun-scorched highways, precipitous bridges, dirt paths shaded by leafy trees, and vineyards occasionally lashed by downpours, Moore and Shinto pass through some of the oldest towns and cities in northern Spain in colorful company, both past and present. Pilgrims real and imagined have traveled this route throughout the ages, a diverse cast of wayfarers spanning Charlemagne, St. Francis of Assisi, Chaucer's Wife of Bath, and New Age diva, Shirley MacLaine. Moore's present-day companions are no less florid or poignant. Clearly more interested in Shinto than in Moore, their fellow walkers are an assortment of devout Christian pilgrims, New Age spirituality seekers, travelers grieving over a lost love affair, Baby Boomers contemplating the advent of middle age, and John Q. Public just out for a cheap, boozy sun-drenched outdoor holiday. As Moore pushes, pulls, wheedles, cajoles, and threatens Shinto across Spain toward the crypt of St. James in a quest to find the spiritual pilgrim within, the duo overnights in the bedrooms, dormitories, and—-for Shinto—-adjacent grassy fields of northern Spain's hostels, inns, convents, seminaries, and farmhouses. Shinto, a donkey with a finely honed talent for relieving himself at the most inopportune moments, has better luck in the search for his next meal than Moore does in finding his inner St. Francis. Undaunted, however, Man and Beast finally arrive at the cathedral and a successful end to their journey. For readers who delighted in his earlier books, Travels with My Donkey is the next hilarious chapter in the travels of Tim Moore, a book that keeps the bones of St. James rattling till this day.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"If you enjoyed Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, this feels like the natural sequel—-a well-told comic misadventure with a history lesson woven in for good measure. This is about the most entertaining travel writing you're going to pick up this year. A rollicking ride through the Spanish countryside with quirky observations, more interesting company than Chaucer seemed to find, and an ass named Shinto who now has enough comic material to jump on the lecture circuit. Arriving in Santiago with Moore was even more enjoyable than the journey I made along the Camino myself. All the fun, none of the blisters." —- Doug Lansky, author of Last Trout in Venice and First Time Around the World
Publishers Weekly
A man, a donkey, and a very long walk: Moore's latest European adventure (after French Revolutions and others) finds him embarking on an ages-old physical and spiritual pilgrimage across Spain to the famed cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Moore entertains with his snappy one-liners and skewed views of the locals, his fellow pilgrims and his own reasons for undertaking the camino. Against advice to the contrary, he pursues his search for a donkey to accompany him, which "upgraded his camino from big walk to revelatory voyage of self-examination." Moore shines in detailing "Tim and Shinto's Excellent Adventure": during the day, he accumulates "clicks" (kilometers) and cajoles Shinto across bridges, grates and roads; afternoons and evenings are spent searching for donkey-friendly lodgings (and encountering a share of slammed doors). Fellow pilgrims (the "Baroness von Munchausen"; "New Mexico Joe") get full portraits between details of communal living and eating, and the sordid intimacies of the shared bathroom. His sections on the pilgrimage's history and the towns he passes, however, are dry in comparison to his anecdotal asides and may only appeal to history buffs or those who've traveled this route themselves. While Moore may not have found his "inner Tim," he does take readers on an entertaining, unusual adventure. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Moore here amusingly chronicles yet another journey he has undertaken (see, for instance, French Revolutions and Frost on My Moustache). Approaching 40 and in need of a physical and spiritual overhaul, Moore becomes intrigued with a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, a medieval must-see. Deciding to make the trip, he acquires a donkey named Shinto and joins a stream of eccentric multinational pilgrims, who bike or walk or furtively jump in taxis as they travel from refugio to refugio along the well-worn route. Moore provides an entertaining account of coping with Shinto's aversion to crossing bridges or puddles, the ubiquitous flan, snoring fellow travelers, and squalid bathing options, all the while immersing his humor in details of historical interest and specific information about each stop and the modern-day trials of a pilgrim. Recommended for public libraries and general travel collections, as well as anyone thinking of taking a long walk with a donkey.-Melissa Stearns, Franklin Pierce Coll. Lib., Rindge, NH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A trepid traveler bonds with his donkey during a picaresque and picturesque walk across northern Spain. Moore (French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France, 2000, etc.) brings his hilarious, smart-alecky sensibility to bear on this-well, tale about a 500-mile journey in company with his ass and with some fairly asinine fellow pilgrims. The narrative plan is hardly unique (he begins at the chronological beginning, ends at the end), but he manages the difficult task of maintaining a highly ironic and even sarcastic tone throughout. What makes it all bearable, laughable, and enjoyable is the pure vein of self-deprecation that also runs from start to finish. Moore very rarely waxes superior to anyone (or anyass) but instead chronicles his myriad difficulties in convincing a particularly willful beast of burden to walk with him across Spain at anything like a predictable clip. Along the way, the author visits many of the relevant sites and shrines (the route was walked by some 60,000 pilgrims in 2001) and does an unobtrusive job, when the situation calls for it, of leading us back to the Middle Ages for some explanation and expatiation. (A little history alongside the humiliation.) Small miracles occur on the camino (for example, a Swiss mule expert actually arrives to help with some donkey lameness), but Moore is not seeking any religious significance in things. He appears to be a nonbeliever who very rarely maligns those who do believe. But his conclusions-such as they are-are steadfastly secular. He describes the profane (there are numerous accounts of his donkey's-and even his own-excretions) as well as the sacred, and he swiftly characterizes (if not caricatures) some of his fellowtravelers: a German who insists on saying "monkey" instead of "donkey"; a woman who looks like a Barbie doll; a man who resembles the young John Travolta. Few donkey puns go unexploited ("I was ready to kick some ass"). Biting words, rollicking entertainment. (16 b&w line drawings)Agent: Georgia Garrett/AP Watt
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312320829
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 2/5/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.26 (w) x 9.16 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

Tim Moore is the author of French Revolutions, The Grand Tour, and Frost on My Moustache. He lives in London.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2009

    It's not about the goal, but rather the journey...

    Certainly, it's not a book for everyone. And, for me, it was hard to read at first (it's English-English, not American-English). But, I once took a trip and decided to journal the entire time as I traveled somewhere for the very first time, on my own goal/purpose. And, for me, in retrospect, it was less about the goal and more about the experience as a whole. Every good and bad thing that occurred throughout the entire trip. So reading this resonated with me the thoughts and feelings that I had with my own experience. You could say it's quasi-epic - the protagonist, while not hero with a tragic flaw, is viewed as a pilgrimage warrior at the end, once he and his "trusty steed" final reach the end of their journey. And I triumphed alongside them as I reached the final pages of the book. It may not be something you initially thought you'd enjoy, much like the author in initially viewing his quest, but at the end you will have lived through the journey with Tim and his...semi-loyal burro...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2008

    Awful!

    The author tried very hard with each sentence to get a laugh and it was quite tedious and not funny. I never did figure out his motivation to take a donkey on the camino and I also never did figure out his motivation to travel the camino at all. Perhaps just to write a funny book? Well, he failed. This is not a book about the camino, far from it. In fact, I'm pretty sure that he made up stuff that wasn't true. Must have thought it would be funny.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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