Friendship

last night at dinner there was the German couple (hikers) from the night before, nice people, but not at all social.  Then there was a single German bicyclist, and a couple from the Netherlands (not hikers).  The dinner ended with the netherlands couple and the bicyclist all sitting at our table talking.  A funny side the German bicyclist was about 6’3 , 280 and a chain smoker, he was going to Santiago de Compostela, but was so out of shape and smoking,  he could only go a short distance each day.  Any way our table of conversation lasted until the restaurant closed.  Ah yes, the restaurant and rooms, nobody will believe me, this was like some far off Broadway comedy.  First, there are five rooms, we have the best of five, the German couple has another, and the bicyclist has another. The rooms are fine, but the shower is in another shared room, and alas, the toilet for the whole enterprise, restaurant and rooms is a one-holer outside of the building.  HEY!  It is the only games town. The owners are a married couple, but the wife is the Star performer, runs the guesthouse, is bartender, waitress, chef, maid, she does it all, and under the circumstances does it well.  She is everywhere – amazing.

Now, today we start out on the longest climb of the walk so far, and as typical for our days it is a mindless walk. We come into the village where we intend to stop, and lo and behold there is a bar, and it is open.  We have a beer, and discover it is also a restaruant with good recommendations. We walk on into the center of town, having been told the Village has just opened a new hostel for Pilgrims, and it is free.  We meet a policeman, who knows all about it, and he takes us to the city hall,and signs us in.  It is not free, they charge 24 euros, but it is a small house, and we are the only Pilgrims, so it is fine; kitchen, bath, and bedroom, with one set of bunk beds and two single beds, Great.  We go back to the earlier restaurant, the food is delicious, and at the end we get invited to join a couple of 70 year olds, who have a home in this village and also in the Netherlands. We talk until the restaurant. He is an architect and she is a classical musician.  This is what it is all about.

There are roads and there are roads

imageimageimageimageimageimageOnce again this morning for breakfast Monica fed the masses (me) from almost nothing as there has been no stores, from the remaining eggs we bought and she backpacked yesterday, a leftover baguette and voila!  For the last several nights our dinners were nuked in microwave ovens, interestingly, at home we don’t own a microwave.  More amazing, the second night our room was over a restaurant, and they didn’t want us in the restaurant for whatever reason, so the chef made up dinner plates and sent them upstairs for us to heat with a microwave.  We did have breakfast in the restaurant.  The dinner did include a carafe of wine, so not all bad.

we started with a short climb on a dirt trail, that then went to a paved farm road, and then to a two lane paved highway, then back to a quiet paved country road, but the last several miles were again along a high speed highway, with very little shoulder room. This is not relaxing.  As said earlier, the road sign is bigger than the village. You see a sign that you are entering a village, you walk past three farmhouses then a sign saying you left the village. No shops, no amenities, no people.  I will no longer complain about too many Starbucks & McDonalds.  Today we arrive at our destination, the village covers a large area, walked a long time before reaching the center.  There are only two places with tourist accommodations, and neither has a room with private bath.  Monday’s every business is closed all day in the rural towns, the other days everything is closed between one and four.  So, by the time you finally find a village that has tourist amenities, everything is closed.  Tonite, we are again in a room over a restaurant, so we shall see. . .

 

Interesting day. . .

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Wow. 2 to 4 euros for wine. Is it really wine?

Wow. 2 to 4 euros for wine. Is it really wine?

Choice for dinner...not look to good

Choice for dinner…not look to good

One one burner worker.

One one burner worker.

What do you expect for 10 euro per person?.

What do you expect for 10 euro per person?.

Every day is a new day, a new experience, and today was no different. Breakfast and hotel checking out was once again a linguistic challenge. All we wanted was a bottle of water, but the request was beyond the hotel clerk.  She went and woke up her daughter, who had no better understanding of English, but eventually between them we got a bottle of water.  I don’t mean to put them down, as it was me who didn’t speak the language, so it was mutual frustration.

The walk out of town took us along farm roads with plowed fields, Cattle and sheep roaming acres of green pasture, and an occasional Chateau. The route began to undulate between long easy climbs, down the other side, then repeat it all again.  The guide said it went from 239 up to 350, but it seemed a lot of up for 100-150 feet, then we realized it was in meters, so three times what we had been thinking.  And, three times the huff and puff

There’s a pattern forming that started in Italy when a little cat joined in walking with us for about a half mile, and I had to escort him all the way back to where he joined us.  Today it was a young donkey, who was grazing along the road as we passed by, but after we passed he began following us. I stopped to take his picture, but before I could focus he was up close and personal with me.  So, we started walking again, and here comes the donkey following right along.  We stopped and tried shooing him to go back, but it didn’t work.  He just kept following along,at times nudging Monica’s pack. Try as we may there was no getting him to turn around and go back; to stop following us.  After what seemed forever a car came along, going in the direction we had come from, the car passed us and stopped by the donkey.  The donkey began excitedly HeeHawing, the car started on down the road with the donkey kicking up his heels and trotting after the car.

We are spending tonight in a Municipal hostel, just us and a German couple, and we each have a private room.  After showering and cleaning up, Monica and  I walked around the village, shockingly there are no businesses of any kind and very few residents.  Homes and other buildings are all for sale.  There are no restaurants and no groceries, dinner was going to be iffy, but Monica went foraging and we had a nice dinner with wine.  What’s the French phone number for meals on wheels? We went for a walk around the derelict village, and stopped at a fenced in field, and with no action on our part, sheep, chickens, geese, and a rooster, seeing us all came running down to the fence to greet us.  It must be our animal magnetism.

Do Americans come here? No!

Today the entire walk was in the rain.  We were soaked through by the time we got to cobigny. As most of the villages we have passed through only consist of 3 or 4 houses cobigny seems like a real city, but it really is a small village also.  Yesterday we walked for several miles along what the guide calls,”the ancient Roman road,”  in reality it was a muddy trench, so although it rained all day today we were walking on paved farm roads, so no mud. That definitely made nicer walking. Unfortunately photo ops are limited as we don’t have an underwater camera.

When we got to the hotel (no Pilgrim accommodation here) we asked for the the WiFi code, instead of the code we got a blank stare.  What’s wifi?  We said it was a small village.  The tourist office said Americans don’t come here.  In fact, we haven’t met an American since arriving in Vezelay 4 or 5 days ago.  While this route is one of the traditional Pilgrim routes to Spain, dating back some 1300 years, the tourist office had no information at all about this route or any other. Pilgrims? ? ?  Even though the village has brass scallop shells set onto the pavement marking the route.imageimageimageimageimage

Picnic anyone?

Picnic anyone?

Hopefully it will soon improve, but so far we have found little of interest along this chermin (Camino).  It has proved a test for foul weather gear.  In preparation for the trip, we went through about six cans of waterproofing spray.  None of it has been effective when spending the day walking in rain.

 

 

Plenary indulgence plus. . .

The past Caminos we showed up at the start, they gave us a passport and we were on our way with scallop shells dangling from our packs – not so at Vezelay.  First, at 10 AM we went to their Camino office, also a hostel & convent,  we signed our name to the forms in like 3 places and got the passport.  Now, were ready to go; but Oh no,  Monsuier, we want to tell you about the route.  After an hour we were on our way, but had an appointment for 3:30 for more route planning.  The afternoon session resulted in our deciding on a totally different route.  Magellan didn’t spend this much time on route planning.  Earlier we met one of the priest’s from the Basilica and he invited us to Vespers/Mass at 7:00 PM, only left enough time for a pastis after the map reading class.  With the nuns And priests singing the evening mass was beautiful and emotionally moving.  We were by that time insiders having made friends with two priests and five women from from the hostel/Camino group, but we promised to attend a Pilgrim blessing today.  The Blessing started at 0645 AM with an hour meditation time in the Basilica with exception of one or two candles it was totally dark. There were about 15 Pilgrims, six priests and ten nuns.  The priests and nuns then sang a benediction service – beautiful, then they brought us up and gave the Pilgrims blessing and to each a small prayer book – hugs and best wishes all around, and we were on our way.  After all of that we must full fledged Knights Templars now.

As the two days of planning were all in totally un-understandable French, we were off trekking with no clue, but a book full of notes.  They had given us several short-cuts, but they were unmarked, so after taking the shortcut, we couldn’t find the regular trail, so it turned into one extra long trail.  The regular trail is not well marked and it has been raining steadily most of the day.  At one point of confused trail, we went into the Marie (French City Hall), which aren’t open on weekends, but this one was, and we became friends with the Mayor (a town of 50 people), but he invited us to come back and visit him after the walk.  Par for us it was a longer &wetter day than it should have been, but we showed up where we has intended.  Neither of us were overly comfortable with todays trek, but it takes awhile for the body to get its act together.

Since we are almost ordained Pilgrims – We shall overcome. . . God bless and thanks for the birthday wishes.

Monica=excitement

Hey!  It is a nothing day just riding the train, Oh yes, a couple of changes in Paris with two short Metro trips – a chilled out boring day.  Wrong!!! But then we went to the wrong Metro track and had to backtrack.  Now we should have gone back and sprung for a new ticket, as the ticket is only good for one time through the gate.  No problem, we will just wait until someone else goes through and follow them.  Wrong!!! The gate closed on Monica holding her squirming and yelling, but a totally trapped captive of the Metro gate.  Other commuters wanted and tried to help, but to no avail..  She was pinned like a butterfly to a collectors board.  A maintenance worker came and between us, with much effort we got her free.  Now, she is inside and I am outside, but once again the maintenance worker to the rescue.  Even without a loud SHAZAMM, he opened a side gate and let me through.  Who would have guessed an Angel in the Metro?  Just to be sure he didn’t have to use up another miracle he walked us down to the right Metro train.  Hey! We be world travelers.  .

We didn’t want to try and top that so it was just a long train ride after that.  A tip for anyone who is going to ride the Paris Metro, and is totally ignorant of written or spoken French.  It is not a problem, but probably not in the Rick Steve’s WorldGuide.  Just step into any car in the train and yell (as inqiuiringly loud as possible) the name of your destination.  Obviously your pronunciation of the place will have no resemblance of the actual name, but regardless at least half the passengers in the car will respond with a equally loud yes or no that it is or isn’t the right train.  Well, thanks and Scuza me.  Hey, world travel is no big thing.

But, guess what, all that is history, and we are now in Vezelay – where the real adventure was intended to begin. . .

Historical or hysterical

Dover, England is separated from Calais, France by the English Channel.  Yesterday, when we discovered the White Horse Pub, and found that not only do they freely provide aid and ale to lost wayfarers, the Pub is also the watering hole for swimmers taking up the challenge of swimming across the Channel. All the walls are festooned with the names, date and times of the successful.

Can you imagine the challenge to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 936 AD when he had to cross the Channel to make his trek to Rome.  Today when we got off of the ferry in Calais we walked along the Via Francigena, the route the Archbishop took.

The chalk cliffs of Dover, always remind us of the WWII war movies when the bombers all shot up, are trying to make it back from bombing runs over Germany, then some one shouts,”There, I see the white cliffs of Dover!  We’re  saved”. Thirty years ago Monica and I crossed from Calais to Dover in a hair raising trip on a Hovercraft.

we had a two mile hike to the ferry this morning, that left us both soaking wet with sweat, got cooled down on the ferry,but had to walk to Calais from the  ferry, so we’re soaked again – amazing to be so hot for Sept. We intended to go right on by train, but we wouldn’t arrive until late at night and where the train ends it is still an hour and a  half bus ride to the village of Vezeelay, where we want to start the hike.  So, most of tomorrow will be a train ride.  We didn’t want to go through Paris, but there is no other way, and the worst part is we have to change trains there, and it requires taking two different metros to get from one train to the other.  It is difficult to deal with the crush of people using the metros while carrying a large backpack.

I forgot that yesterday at the Oakland airport, Monica got celebrity recognition when three women noticed the Camino patches on her backpack, stopped her to ask if she had done the Camino.  She said she had which had the women squealing with excitement.  Then she had to pose for a picture.  A star is born.

What no kippered herring?

We  left Oakland on Norweigan Airlines,  Oakland is very easy in & out, and Norweigian was one third the average price to Europe.  Brand new 787 Boeing planes, but no frills IKEA design. They did get us to Gatwick/London.  Then the intended Express high speed directo train to Dover became a local train, bus, high speed train to another high speed train to eventually arrive in Dover; and on a day that had the highest recorded temp. For all time.  While we had made a B&B reservation, we misplaced it and couldn’t remember the name of the place.  We walked to the place we thought was it,but it wasn’t, however it was a Pub (that had not rented a room in three hundred years.)  Two ales later, we were on our way to the right place.

We went out for dinner, following the advice of several locals we ended up At an Italian restaurant.  We hadn’t eaten all day, and we ordered so many dishes (and ate everything) that the waiter put another table and chairs next to us, because he said we were eating for four.

Tomorrow the adventure starts with a hike to the ferry and crossing the Channel to Calais, France.  Sounds simple, but simple never is with us.  They made us totally repack our backpacks at the Norweigian counter in Oakland, and then TSA wouldn’t let my pack through with a Leatherman pocket knife, but OPD saved the day there.

Life is just a bowl of cherries, with a little help from the Angels.

 

 

News from the Cuckoo’s nest

Sorry, to miss this year’s Fleet Week, it is always a fun visit to S.F.  I have posted some shots of our last fleet week.blue-angelsthe-angelsblue-angels-1

A few weeks ago, Monica got steroids and gel squirted into her lower spine; and a few days ago I got an MRI for my knee, seems it sometimes doesn’t follow directions well. In my case the doctor said it was old age.  Old age, indeed!  The very idea, obviously a wrong diagnosis. Although of late I don’t recognize the guy in my shaving mirror; that can’t be me, I know I’m younger than that.

Quick Monica,  we must hurry before they come with the straps!  Call it crazy, but assuming we are both still standing by next Monday, we have flight reservations to London, take the train to Canterbury, hike to Dover, cross the Channel to Calais, take train to Vezelay, France; then start hiking with our backpacks south to the Pyrennes, about 400 miles or so.  We love to go a wandering. . .  Oh Boy, off to Paree – again.

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