Pilgrims Again, the Via Tolosana, France
We fly out of San Francisco on Feb. 28th to Paris, then by train to Arles, France. Arles is 20 miles from Avignon, and near Provence, just above the Mediterranean. The Via Tolosana is one of the original Camino routes to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, (900 miles), or you can walk the opposite direction to Rome. We are walking toward Spain, as far as Toulouse, France, approx.190 miles. Celebrating Monica’s birthday & our wedding anniversary in Arles. We return Mar.19th. Will try to keep you posted.
The surgery for the torn meniscus is now two weeks in the past, and all went well. A bit of physical therapy and I should be back to whatever normal was. Simple surgery is what they do to other people, but mine did go very well. The doctor said my response to the surgery was above the curve, but I should think about walking less than 5oo miles at a time, and did I ever consider swimming?
Have been busy with the jewelry making business; check it out at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/GypsySpiritsArt/edit?ref=hdr_shop_menu
I have titled the photo, The Refugees; it was taken on the Camino Portugues while trekking to Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Monica and I wish you a blessed Christmas, and Peace & Love throughout the New Year.
Just in case. . .
Just in case you didn’t realize it we are now home on the mountain, a little bit more tattered than usual, but an MRI just a few days before we left had shown a torn meniscus in my knee. Walking over 200 miles wasn’t going to cure that, so it is scheduled to be handled in a couple of weeks. Have been busy sorting through all the photos, but also sorting out the impressions left on the mind by the travel.
Our usual organization and planning dissolved as soon as we arrived in Vezelay, France, our starting point. Our route changed, before we started. About six days down the road, the plan changed again, deciding to walk in Portugal and Spain, rather than France, so after a combination of rental car and trains, we started a new hike from Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compostella, Spain. Successfully finishing in Santiago, it became life in a sit-com as we attempted to get from Santiago to Paris (another change of flight from Paris instead of the original Gatwick (London). This resulted in travel by rental car, bus, train, and involved several days of constant travel and comedic experiences. HEY! It is not easy being a Pilgrim. Paris was delightful as usual, we spent one entire day walking around Paris.
Now at home the whole experience becomes a head trip, answering the Why, of it all.
I have always been of the belief that “time” was one of the gifts of the Camino. Walk at your own pace, on your own itinerary, and especially to escape from the 24/7 captivity of email, texting, twitter, Instagram, and the daily Kardashian report. To have the opportunity to appreciate the sights, sounds, people, and to meet the challenge, the whole experience, that is the Camino. It seems we spend so much time ‘being connected,’ unfortunately for the most part it is meaningless trivia; and it results in our missing out on the fullness of life. The technology of 24/7, second to second, is a distraction from the reality of life. Like the Camino, life has its challenges, its obstacles, its highs and lows, none of which can be avoided by wearing headphones. Being able to spend time away from time constraints, with time to absorb all the Camino has to offer, could not be time better spent.
Who knows where we are going? The Shadow do.
Not a walk in the Park
France: It is a rainy day as we cross a bridge, looking down over the side, we see a wedding photographer shooting a bride and groom against the backdrop of an ancient Roman bridge. The rain will add to their experience, as it does to ours. Regardless of the weather life goes on. I have found that while hiking, the foul weather routine doesn’t differ from the dry routine. We may or may not put on rain gear, but in the end it is the same – just keep walking. Step by step, and in time you will have gone someplace.
On to Paree
We dropped off the rental car at the airport in Irun, Spain. We then took a cab across the bridge to the train station in Irun, France, a short 5 euro ride. We asked the Cabbie if he was French Basque or Spanish Basque? He answered,”we aren’t French or Spanish, we were here with the Romans, we are Basque. Our language is from Roman times.” At the train station, I had a brief conversation with the two police officers assigned there, and gave them a OPD shoulder patch. I said Oakland was by San Francisco, and the older officer said,” yes, I know you have a great sports team, the Warriors.” He was a Curry fan – small world. It was a uneventful train trip to Paris, except that out of boredom, my inner James Bond surfaced, and built a case of foreign intrigue about the man sitting across the aisle from me. He had an IPad and two cellphones, one black and one pink (obviously untraceable.) He answered the pink phone when it rang, but just appeared to listen, never spoke. Went to the IPad then back to make a call on the pink phone, but again never spoke. In Paris, the woman seated next to him, who we assumed were a couple, got off the train through the same door we did, but the man walked back through the train to get off from another car – Ahh-Haa! Verrrrry interesting. The train station was in the Montparnessa district of Paris, and our hotel, that Monica had picked from Booking.com was only a block away. The hotel was only two stars, but was very nice. The next day as we had been on a trekking trip, we decided on a walking tour of Paris. We started at 9:30 in the AM, and returned to the hotel at 7:30 PM, a coffee stop in the morning, lunch, and head calls aside, we were steady walking for eight hours. We had previously visited all the main tourist attractions, but this time added Sant Chappell, and entered Notre Dame Cathedral through the “Year of Mercy Door,” where we also attended the Vespers service. Along the way there was also noon Mass at another church. A couple of times we stopped to confirm directions to a particular site, and they would tell us where and which metro station & train to take. We said no metro, we were walking. They would point the way, but add that it was too far to walk. We scoff at taking the metro – Scoff! Scoff!
Life in a house of mirrors
well, by 10 o’clock we were finally dining at our hotel, the Hotel Rio Bubly. Honestly that was the name of the hotel. Hey! It is just across the street from the Rio Bubly, we are not talking the Nile or the Amazon here, but the Rio Bubly. We both agreed the meal was perfectly cooked and very nice. This morning we went down for coffee, just minutes ahead of a herd of seniors from two tour buses. It was like the grasshoppers descending on Utah; as there was only one young woman hotel employee, who had to deal with the people checking out of the hotel, answer the phone for new reservations, glad hand the local morning crowd, while making 200 espresso coffees for the tour bus crowd. She did it all admirably. She must stay heavily sedated.
Then we were off for a coasr drive along almost the whole Atlantic coast of Spain. The car has to stay in Spain and the San Sebastián airport is as close to France as we can take it. The airport is actually in Hondarriba. This is totally Basque Country. We were in Handarriba a number of years ago, and the story at the time is a book unto itself. So, how romantic to rekindle the memory. Can you believe I got a room,not just a room, but the same room from the past, with a view looking out to the sea. Since our last visit the hotel has been remodeled and updated. Now with an elevator – how gosh! The staff is bored to tears. The recommended restaurant was an overpriced dog & pony show. As the saying goes, you have to live in the now, you can’t go back to the past.
Walk to Santiago but how do you ESCAPE?.. Tunnel out?… We have to leave today Saturday, and there appears to be no way to get out of town other than walking. First, we walked to the bus station – no bus; so on to the train station. The lady at the train information said we were too late, we had missed all of the trains. Then she began talking to her computer, interrupting her conversation with her computer to bless herself and mutter a pray. Success, she could get us on a train to Barcelona, early tomorrow morning. No, we don’t want to go to Barcelona, our return plane is in Paris. No problem, more conversation with her computer, and a few more prayers – Success, she has once again performed a miracle, and got us on the train to Barcelona. Forget Barcelona, where else can I go right now by train? Her response,”No where, it is too late, no more trains. Thanking her for all her effort and one hell of a good job; we walked out on to the train platform, where a number of people were obviously waiting – for what? We asked the first two we came to, who were Irish Pilgrims on their way home to Dublin. How are you getting to Dublin? The train to Vigo, Spain and fly from there. The TRAIN? When in just a few minutes,today of course. I ran back into the info office – they are taking a train to Vigo, I want to go to Vigo! Of course, just go buy a ticket the train arrives in 15 mins. So simple, what was all that about Barcelona? The train arrived , and we were off to VIGO. Then we were in Vigo, but we want to be in France. There is no train today, but you could go to Barcelona tomorrow. This has become an Abbott & Costello routine. Every time I hear Barcelona, “slowl
y I turn and step by step,”. No Barcelona,so we are off to the Vigo bus station. The bus to France is $175. A person. So, we are off to the airport, but you have to go to another location to get a bus to the airport. We start walking to the airport bus stop, but are accosted by a a young man and his parents; seeing our backpacks, the quickly stepped into a phone booth and in a flash reappeared as Super Angels, ready to escort Camino Pilgrims to the proper bus stop. A bit of language distortion had them originally taking us to get a Compostela stamp. That corrected they eventually got us to the correct bus stop, and we were on our way to the airport. At the airport, you guessed it the only flight was too Barcelona. Sorry, Senor, but what a relief the flight was full. I need a flight to Paris. We don’t fly to Paris. End of flight plan, no problem, we will rent a car and drive, our friends at Avis will take care of us. The Avis agent,”It is $400 euros for the car and another $2,000 euros to take it to France. Forget it Avis. We now have a Eurocar are at a hotel in an unknown area of Spain. We haven’t eaten since breakfast, it is now after 9 PM, and our host has assured us they will have dinner, but no indication that it is going to happen…
It is now 9:30PM and no sign of dinner service. They set all the tables in the dining room, the closed the doors. There are now about 30 Hungry people milling about. I think I’ll go cot down a tree for a battering ram and attack the dining room door – we shall overcome. . .
Eureka, Ultreya, and God bless!
Low and behold the Pilgrims landed yesterday in Santiago de Compostela. It was a long up and down,a lot of it was quiet backroad country paths, but again a section that is quite long with Pilgrim against high speed traffic. A bicyclist was knocked down by a truck, the referee called it a draw, nobody hurt. But, with a backpack you are the turtle on the road. At one point in the Santiago suburbs, you walk for about 20 mins.around and about under the freeway, and all you have really advanced is to cross a roundabout. That is all history, we arrived intact. We went to check- in at the relocated Pilgrim office (it relocated to a very much larger building and definitely required as there are some 275,000 Pilgrims checking in this year), apparently some 200,000 must have just arrived before us, as we had stood in line for quite awhile when they told us the average wait would be over two and a half hours. How long? Forget it we will come back tomorrow morning when they first open. HEY! We didn’t just fall off the pumpkin truck, we are smart enough to figure out how to avoid long lines. We get there early this morning and the line already has 100,000 people in it. So, we still spent hours in line, but we got acquainted with the Australian couple (walked the minimum 62.2 miles from Tui on the Portuguese route) in front of us, and the German couple (walked the 62.2 miles from Saria, on the French route) right behind us. When we finally made it to the desk and got our Compostela, we found we were the oldest couple of the day to check in, and we had walked about 225 miles? Santiago is a hustle bustle of Pilgrims and tourist, we did get to attend Mass when they have 6 or 7 men swinging the huge incense burner, but much of the cathedral is under restoration.
We only made reservations for two days here in Santiago, and the whole town is completo tomorrow, so we are on our way. As we don’t have a definite plan we are on our way to somewhere??? By the way, you can get very hungry standing in lines, so for lunch we had; a double order of Chorizo, an order of pork ribs, an order of mussels, an order of sardines, and of course white wine. The waiter seeing how famished we ere brought us a basket of small anise flavored doughnuts. It had been such a trying line standing day, we had to stop for ice cream on the way back to our pension.