"The Journey Continues! Please enjoy my photos and blog posts from my journeys in Europe. They are in reverse order with my latest posts right under this photo. For your convenience you may use the menu below to drop to various days of the journey. Below each blog entry are photos and below that is a link to bring you back to the top of this page. To fit all the pictures in I have posted smaller sizes, but all you need to do is right click on the photo (with a PC) and choose to open the file in another window. When you go to that window, you can view a much larger version and see details. I hope you enjoy my journey in the Netherlands and on the Way of Saint James from Geneva through France and across the Pyrenees Mountains."
May 16-26 The Netherlands First two days on the way Day 3 Day 4 Day 5
Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9 Day 10 Day 11 Day 12 Day 13 Day 14 Day 15
Day 16 Day 17 Day 18 Barb's Reflections Mid-Walk Update Leaving Europe
August 8, 2012 Last Day in Europe
Today is my last day in Europe. Tomorrow I return to America. Three weeks ago I completed my pilgrimage walk on the Way of St. James. In fifty days I walked 1200 Kilometers from Geneva Switzerland across France to Pamplona Spain. It was a wonderful adventure that I am still processing, one from which I believe I will be gaining insights and learnings for a long time to come. After I completed the Walk I spent a week traveling to Paris, Heidleburg, and Amsterdam before returning to my starting point here in the south of Netherlands, where my dear friends Kim and Pim have been my gracious hosts for the last two weeks. These three weeks have been a time of consolidation of my experience and a resting of my inner and outer selves. While the walk was an amazing and wonderful journey, it was also physically and mentally challenging and it has taken these three weeks to normalize myself to the point of being ready to live in America again.
The experience of Walking the Way of St. James was all and more that I hoped it would be. My intention in doing the journey was to deepen my trust in myself and in life, to learn at a more fundamental level that all is well, to know I can follow my heart and intuition when going for the bigger picture in my pursuit of love, wisdom and happiness without having to rely on the conventional dictums of staying within the boundaries of where security and safety lie. The biggest lesson I learned on the Way was that I will always have my needs met. I may not always get what I want but I will always get what I need. This was my experience over and over again and I am taking that knowledge with me into my life beyond the Way.
It is said that once you experience the Way of St. James you are addicted to it for life. I heard this over and over again from other pilgrims whom I met walking the Way. I now know it is true for me also. I am already looking forward to and planning my next walk. Though I didnt make it all the way to Santiago, I will on a future walk and probably will do so many times over. One of my favorite pilgrims I met was a gentleman from England, Hugh, who was 89 years old and going strong! He is my inspiration that I too can be doing this at 90!
I am returning from this Pilgrimage a happier, healthier (I lost 10 kilos and ate all the French pastry I wanted!), more balanced and compassionate person. Walking the Way was a very humbling experience, at times showing me my limitations both physical and mental. It was also a wonderfully empowering experience showing me my strengths and capacities for endurance and perseverance. I learned to love the simple life I led and realized that I can do with so much less. In fact when Walking the Way, less is definitely more, especially when you have to carry it on your back!
I am looking forward to returning to my life as a healer and teacher. What I gained from this walk will add richness and depth to my practice, I believe. I see the world differently and feel differently about the potential in all of us. I am excited to continue the work of supporting individuals on their own journey to tap into and manifest that potential in their everyday lives.
After I said goodbye to Barb, I stopped posting on my blog. However, I did keep up with my journaling and will be posting my daily entries and pictures once I return. So dear readers, thank you for your interest and stay tuned for the rest of the story!
End of Journey Photos
"Crossing the Pyranees."
"Korean Pilgrims Crossing the Pyranees. Will leaving Pamlona, the end of the Pilgrimage."
"Paris, City of Light. Rose Window, Notre Dame, Paris. Will at the Eifel Tower."
"Bikes and Canals, Amsterdam. Mozart Hotel Where I stayed in Amsterdam. Will returning to Pim and Kim's."
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The Way of Saint James, Update
July 1, Will on the Way: Inner Journey
I am on a new phase of my journey, one of deeper, more personal contemplation and so have decided to stop blogging for now, while spending more time with my inner rather than outer experience. I am still keeping a log of my experiences and may share them at a later date, and may blog publicly again before the end of my journey. I appreciate my readers interest and please stay tuned.
The Way of Saint James, Day Eighteen
June 14, 18th Day of Will on the Way: Beginnings and Endings Day
Another big bed and another good night's sleep. Awoke at 6:30 my latest yet. Barb up shortly after as she wanted to get an early start and arrival in Le Puy. Besides getting her return train ticket to Geneve we also had plans to meet our fellow pilgrims at the Cathedral at 5:00 PM. We were on the road by 8:15 after a simple breakfast. The weather was lovely and warm. Summer had arrived.
After a bit of time in the county our walk soon began to take us through suburbs of Le Puy, the first time we had seen such since leaving Geneve. Before lunch we were walking parallel to the freeway and when we stopped to eat we could see the Cathedral of Le Puy in the distance. The next hour and a half took us through the trappings of unpleasant civilisation. I had thought about staying for a rest day but was reconsidering after seeing this part of the city. One consolation was that the chamin took us along the river until it was time to begin the ascent into the old part of the city. Everything then began to change for the better. Just before leaving the river route we passed one of the maps that showed the route from Geneve to Le Puy. We had passed these periodically seeing the first one in Naydene near Beaumont and here we were in Le Puy at the last one. It was a good feeling!
Our route took us the back way into the old town ending up near the Cathedral. A beautiful structure built originally over a Roman temple it commanded a great height over the city. It has had a long connection with Santiago de Compostella. In 810 the bishop of Le Puy made the first pilgrimage to visit the holy relics of St. James there and the church and city have been an important part of the Way of St Jacques since.
We went inside where it was cool and dark, welcomed after the hot walk up the hill. Barb called the place we were to stay but the directons were too complex to follow. I went back into the church seeking help in the sacristy. It was here that pilgrims obtained their Creanciale or credential, the passport of the pilgrim on the Way, showing by his stamps which he received at each stop on the chamin, that he/she had indeed made the journey to Santiago. Up until now I had been improvising with a makeshift credential and was happy to now be "official." Once again there were angels looking out for us and the woman there knew how to direct me by use of a hand-drawn map on how to reach our chambre d'hotes. With a further map from the office of tourism, we figured out the puzzle of the complex streets and found our way to the very cute and sweet home of our B&B.
Here we were greeted with enthusiasm and wamth. Our hosts had been pilgrims at one time and I always experience a different reception from those who have walked the Way themselves. After a cool drink and the requisite chatting went taken to our quarters. Our hostess offered to wash our clothes in a machine, always welcome on the Camino and once situated we headed out again to the train station to get Barb's ticket. Fortunately it was close and we accomplished this easily and efficiently. Her train left at 12:41 the next day and was a direct connection to Lyon and then to Geneve. Easy as pie!
By now it was 4:45 and we had only 15 minutes to make it to the Cathedral to meet our friends. We rushed, took a few wrong turns, easy to do in this delightful medieval town, and were rewarded with a view of Mikaela, Barbara, and Anna sitting on the steps of the Cathedral awaiting us with a bottle of red wine and two glasses to share a toast to our reunion. I felt happy, excited and playful, sharing this achievement with others was so much more joyful than doing it alone. We hugged and talked and took pictures, askng other pilgrims coming up the steps to take a group photo for us.
After awhile we talked of being hungry, something common to all pilgrims, and went in search of food. Finding a pleasant eatery down the hill we each had big salads of different varieties. Conversation was smooth and happy though we were aware this was also a goodbye meal. After seeing the true charm of Le Puy I decided to stay another day and rest before beginning the second part of my pilgrim's journey. As it turned out Mikaela was also staying another day and we would leave together on Saturday heading south. She had already been on the road 6 weeks and was going on for another two before returning to Switzerland. Anna was heading on to St. jean Pierre de Port tomorrow and the Barbaras we going home.
After dinner we returned to the Cathedral steps and bid each other goodnight and Anna goodbye. She was taking off early to get plenty of kilometers behind her. It turned out that the two Barbaras were on the same train tomorrow and Mikaela and I would be there to see them off. After we parted Barb and I went to an outdoor cafe that specialized in ice cream treats and she had a last splurge of a hot fudge sundae and I a scoop of caramel with cream. A wonderful way to celebrate our ending.
Full and content we returned to our nook on the Rue Sous St.Claire and slept our last night together on the chamin.
"We see Le Puy in distance. More beauty in flowers. The marker of the Way of St Jacques. The road to Le Puy, like life, is not a straight one."
"Two of the many four legged friend we met. We made it! Geneve to le Puy! The road to Le Puy like life its not a straight one"
"Barb holding Will's extra stuff no longer to be carried and sent back to Holland. Cathedral."
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Barb's reflections on 18 days with Will on the Way
I had a fabulous time with "Will on the Way." I haven't laughed that much in a really long time and it felt great! There were so many things that were special to me on this amazing adventure. I got to know Will really well and learned many things about him that I didn't know. We discovered a special partnership with one another, on so many levels. It was really easy to live and travel with Will; we were able to create our own space during our daily walks, as well as have time for great conversations. We enjoyed yoga, our meals together, planning our daily adventures, practicing our French, and making the best of getting lost. We found many similarities with one another, including our deep love for the natural environment and being outdoors connecting heaven and earth; we liked the same kinds of food; and we loved rural France. But the crme de la crme was our discovery that our work is so complimentary and we want to partner in leading small groups for coaching and healing "on the way" in France. As a shaman Will reflects a person's essence or true nature. He works energetically and brings back missing pieces lost during the drama of life, and helps clients to return to equilibrium, whole and complete. He reflects a person's biggest self. As a coach, I support the client to further refine their dreams, their vision for their big life, their desired outcomes and their goals. I provide a safe and compassionate space for clients to move forward and create what once seemed impossible. As a partner to the client, I hold them fully capable of reaching their dreams. I provide structure, accountability and provocative questions.
The thought of intertwining our skills, talents and interests in service to our clients is so inspiring. So while I was sad when I left "Will on the Way," I know we will both be returning very soon to France to share the magic with others. In the meantime, I bask in the afterglow of living in the present moment, fully connected to my self, others and spirit.
Blessings to you dear Will on your continued journey.
"The happy travelers."
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June 13, 17th Day of Will on the Way: Reunion Day
A second good night's sleep and I awoke at 6:15. I caught up on writing the blog and Barb awoke about 7:30. We did yoga stretches before going into breakfast at 8:00. The table was spread with all kinds of breakfast delights. We started with a crunchy whole grain cereal and worked our way through freshly made white cheese, delicious hot brioche French toast, and bread and homemade jams. It was the best breakfast yet. Our hostess, an amazing cook, had also bought a fresh baguette, ham and tomatoes for us to have sandwiches on the way to St. Julian Chapteuil, our destination today. Before we left her husband told us of an alternate route that was more attractive than going the standard way and that would save us 3K to boot.
When we woke up we thought we were facing a similar day to the previous one weather-wise but by the time we packed and left St. Jueres it had cleared up considerably. There were sweeping clouds but none that looked like rain and the sun was shining through. It was still cold and windy so we were dressed for it suitably.
As the morning progressed it became sunnier and though at one point a big black cloud came threateningly over us it passed on with the wind. It reminded me of my own temperment and how quickly I could move from sunny to an ominous black mood. As all else on the chamin it was a reflection and a reminder of my ability to choose and that, like the cloud, all things change and pass away.
The landscape was again breathtaking and beautiful. The land of ancient volcanoes. It was my favorite walk temperature and weather to date. Perfect for brisk hiking and Barb and I were in our best form yet. It seemed just at the end of our time together we had found our stride.
One of the high points of the day, figuratively and literally, was when we reached the beginning of our descent into the valley of the Velay region. We were about to leave the mountains for the last time and we stood looking over a deep green landscape of small mounts and little hills of long extinct volcanoes now covered with trees and vegetation. The sky and cloudscape matched the majesty of the land below with its bright deep blue tones and brilliant white nimbus shapes accenting the azure background. I thought it equal to any place of beauty on earth I had ever seen. It had a magical feel, as if we were about to enter Rivendale, the enchanted valley of the elves described in the Lord of the Rings. We knew too that our destination of Le Puy was not far in the distance and felt a sadness that we were reaching the last stage of our wonderful journey together.
We stopped for lunch in a field of wild flowers behind an old stone wall overlooking the village of Queyrieres. It was sunny with intermittent shade from passing clouds overhead. We had a leisurely meal enjoying our ham, cheese and tomatoe sandwiches. I talked about the Picture of Dorian Gray, an Oscar Wilde novel, and how our choices in the past are reflected in our countenance in the present. Barb reflected on her own healing, she had learned we are not bound by our past choices and can choose differently at any time and hence change both our present and future life projectory. What a freeing thought!
Our walk continued on through the village of Queyrieres and we were soon following a stream into an enchanted forest. This was the alternate route our host of the previous night had mentioned. It went by an old mill long in disuse and the light danced magically through the leaves and on the water. It felt like we had entered a time out of time and were both happy to see the footprints of an earlier hiker, comforting us that we too would find our way home.
The path came out on the outskirts of St. Julian Chapteuil. We walked into town looking for signs of our chamber d' hote, but discovered, after calling, that it was another kilometer away in an adjacent little village. To reward ourselves for our futile efforts we stopped and bought a pastry and ate it in the town square before moving on to our place of rest for the evening.
Our hosts that last night before arriving in Le Puy were a elderly couple who were farmers. They had five children, eleven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. We had fresh vegetables and salad from theIr garden and a delicious pasta with bits of ham in a cream sauce. Though the Italians are known for thier pasta, I must say the French sure know how to cook it!
Later that evening as we were preparing for sleep I discovered I had not only left my favorite washcloth but also my special wax ear plugs at our previous lodging in St. Jeures. It was the most upset I had been since loosing my silver bracelet, perhaps more so! I couldn't see how I'd manage without them. Barb generously offered to give me her extras and in the end I was fine, but it was another lesson for me in learning to give up attachments and trust all I need will be provided.
"Beautiful view. Ancient volcanoes. Barb at her truest. Curious friends."
"Entering the enchanted forest. Happy lunch mates. We see a house and then Le Puy far below."
"Looking over valley with Le Puy below. We see magic in the flowers, a new kind of structure and an old mill."
"A stone vross. Valley of the volcanoes. Will has wings."
"Barb arriving at b&b and shows the map of our journey. Cathedral in Le Puy. Church of St Michael just outside of Le Puy."
"Church of St. Michael. City street in Le Puy. Friend sharing a farewell meal. A kind of structure."
"Church of St. Michael. View of Cathedral from bottom of steps. View of Le Puy from Cathedral steps. View of our b&b."
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June 12th, 16th Day of Will on the Way: Growing Up Day
I woke up at 6:00 having slept deeper and better than any night so far. I think it was the combination of getting comfortable with my new nomadic life and the big bed I slept in. Being able to stretch out freely was a sweet luxury. After yoga stretches and packing we had our usual breakfast in the restaurant below. We had the same friendly waiter of the evening before and he took our picture together as we left the hotel.
We were headed for St. Jueres, a 21K walk that day. It was a cold day, 10 C, maybe in the 30's F, the coldest day we had yet had. We were happy we had brought our cold weather clothes. I remembered cursing their extra weight during our first week when the temperature was sweltering in the 90's and thinking I was needlessly carrying them. Barb had warned me of the variable weather and now I saw she was right.
After stopping for our groceries and lunch supplies we headed out of town. With our experience of the day before we were weary of taking an alternate by mistake. Our map showed there was one a bit out of town so I was trying to pay careful attention to not take it in error.
The walking was pleasant and though there were some rain showers, they were spotty and we seemed to be able to find shelter under trees when it did pour with any strength. About 3K out of town we began to watch out for the alternate. We had stopped to consult the map when a brown boxer dog showed up and greeted us with a wag and nuzzle. He had a chain collar but no tags. He began to follow us and I worried that he might be lost and pictured him accompanying us all the way to Le Puy. Barb, more sensibly, thought he knew what he was about and suggested I not be concerned.
Well he followed us or rather we followed him for some time, at one point losing sight of him when we stopped to wait out a rain shower. After a kilometer or so our canine friend reappeared trotting past us heading back in the direction we had come from, stopping briefly to look back at us before moving on. As we looked ahead we saw we were on the correct route of the chamin and the crisis of getting lost again had passed. We marveled at our guide and wondered if it was indeed St. Jacques, in a shape shifted form, helping us stay on the Way!
The rest of the morning was hit and miss showers and we were hoping not to need our rain gear. The walking was pleasant and easy. Fewer and fewer hills all the time. We walked together for a while and conversed about addiction, co-dependency, and recovery. I asked Barb what she thought was the opposite of co-dependency and we mulled on that for a while. In the course of sharing Barb stated that for her co-dependence could be understood as: "I'm ok if you're ok." Which I thought brilliantly captured the essence of the issue. Having been co-dependent much of my life, this definition really rang true and will be a benchmark for me in my future interpersonal relationships. I feel so grateful for the hours of reflection and thoughtful conversations I have with enjoyed with Barb while the walking the Way together. She is a gifted coach as well as a fun and spirited adventurer and what I have learned from and with her will benefit me for a long time to come.
Shortly before Tence, a larger town or Ville, the weather grew cold and rainy. We had to get on our ponchos and rain pants as well as our warm jackets and hats. By the time we reached Tence it had abated a bit and as we were hungry we stopped for lunch. We found shelter under an overhanging tree on the side of the road. We tucked under it and made a repast of bread and cheese, dried fruit and nuts with dark chocolate for dessert.
It continued to rain and by the time we were done I was cold. This was a first for me on the chamin and I worried I might have jeopardized my health by not being more mindful. The best thing was to get warm as quickly as possible so we took off walking at a fast pace. We still had three hours ahead of us to St Jueres and I was eager to put the kilometres behind us quickly. The brisk pace did the trick and I soon was warm again.
I kept up the faster pace for the remainder of the afternoon and by 4:30 we saw the church tower of St. Jueres in the not so far distance. By the time the church bells rang five times we had reached our chambre d'hote. St. Jueres is in an ancient volcanic region and we could see long ago vestiges of fire mountains. It was a beautiful place to spend the night.
Our accommodations were great. We had our own private quarters away from the main house. Again I had a big double bed and there was plenty of room for us to do yoga before dinner. Dinner was served at the main house and I joked that I hoped we were the only guests. No such luck, there was a cute elderly couple, retired, and our host and hostess. We made small talk before eating, which though challenging, was great for improving our French. Barb being charming and extroverted took the lead in asking questions of the guests and hosts. When it came our turn to talk about our work we found it hard to find the words to describe the profession of a life/business coach much less that of a shaman! However, by the end of a fun evening with a great meal and an amazing desert with lots of whipped cream behind us, the company had gotten an idea of what we did.
Barb and I retired to our quarters and with the plan of sleeping in a little longer on our next to our last day, we were soon asleep in our comfortable beds.
"At the hotel in Monfaucon and we see bad weather coming. There is beauty on the trail, both the flowers and my dear friend, Barb."
"Getting nearer to the destination, we see St Jeures. Will in repose."
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June 11th, 15th Day of Will on the Way: Heaven and Earth Day
Woke up with the sun and singing of birds. It was 5:30. My upper bunk looked out the window of the gite and I was greeted with a beautiful vista of blue sky, white clouds and sweeping green hills. Wow!
I hadn't slept well. The bed was hard and uncomfortable and I awoke a few times in the night. I was aware of my legs and feet thawing and releasing all the strain and tension of the previous day's hike. With each awakening they were more relaxed and comfortable. By morning they were functional again. This journey has made me realize again the healing power sleep.
Barb awoke as did the third party staying at the gite. A friendly German named Jorg who was making the pilgrimage in sections, as many pilgrims do, and would finish this year in Le Puy. After packing we headed back to the house of the night before for breakfast.
The day was cool but promised sunshine. As we passed by the Gite on our way out of town we noticed a little statue of St. Jacques greeting us and bidding us Bon Camino. We were headed for Montfaucon en Velay an 18 K walk.
The day was perhaps the most beautiful to date both in terms of weather and scenery. We had reached the highest elevations of this part of the chamin and the vistas were amazing. Green valleys and forested hills spread out before us. At one point we saw seven hawks dancing with the wind. There were rain clouds that would pass over and sprinkle us with fresh drops and soon go their way. Only once did we don our rain gear and by the time Barb had her rain pants on it was sunny again.
Barb, not having slept well the night before, was tired and physically challenged. The hardest day yet she said. The ups and downs of the hills were less frequent but still somewhat difficult. After our morning break we crossed a lovely stone bridge traversing a mountain stream. Just after this I heard a clanging noise and saw that my scallop shell had fallen on the road. This surprised me for I had tied it on well to my backpack where it hung. Fortunately it wasn't damaged and I put it in my jacket pocket next to my heart. We continued on the Way.
Later I was to learn that it was at this very point where the shell dropped that we mistakenly took an alternate route of GR 65, missing the correct path and began to go in a direction that would take us many kilometres out off of the chamin and our destination of Montfaucon. I believe that St. Jacques was trying to give me message when the shell fell but sadly I wasn't listening.
We continued to follow the red and white signs that had been our trusty markers for the Way, blissfully thinking we we on the correct route. What we didn't realize was that alternates off of GR 65 also use the same red and white markings but only the chamin has the blue and gold scallop shell marks. Something that would have alerted us to our error if we had known.
Regardless the walk continued to be a beautiful one and by late afternoon we were approaching a town that we assumed to be Montfaucon, the arrival time being about what we expected. As we approched the markers seemed to be taking us away from the town rather than through it. This was puzzling so we decided to walk into the village, which was St. Bonnet de Froid. When we saw this we were completely flummoxed! Where were we and how did we get here? We looked on our map and there was no such place on it. Had we stepped into the twilight zone?
We walked further into the town and there saw a sign for Montfaucon - 12 kilometres. How did we get here and how do we get back were the questions we asked ourselves. Finally we decided to ask for help and went into a cafe/bar and asked a young woman behind the bar for assistance. She was very gracious and amused at our predicament telling us we were far from where we wanted to be, even pulling out a map showing us just how lost we gotten.
It was at this point I suggested we take a taxi to Montfaucon saying we had done our walking for the day. Barb was delighted at this suggestion as she had planned on walking the 12 K more and bucking up like the trooper she is. The proprietress of the cafe called us a taxi and while we waited Barb had a herbal tea and I a local microbrew. Barb also made a reservation at the Plantanes Hotel in Montfaucon for that evening.
The taxi arrived a half hour later and we were soon situated in our hotel in Montfaucon. We had a lovely room, more like a suite, and after showering and doing our wash we headed downstairs for dinner. To our great surprise and delight we saw Mikaela seated with Barbara and another woman, who we later met as Anna, in the restaurant! We hugged and greeted her friends and joined them for a good dinner and great conversation.
At the end of the evening we all agreed to meet on Thursday, the 14th, two days hence at the Cathedral in Le Puy at 5:00 PM. The two Barbaras were heading home, one to Germany the other to the US, while Anna, Mikaela and I were heading on south to the boarder. Meeting in Le Puy would be a way of celebrating our completion of the journey from Geneve and holding the connection of the Way until met again. Once again a day full of magic and adventure. Tired and happy we returned to our room and went to sleep.
"View from bed in Gite in Setoux on this Heaven and Earth Day. Barb and Will visit with a small statue of St. Jacques."
"We were lost but didn't know it yet but beautiful flowers were on the path."
"Will on heaven and earth day, walking the Way and enjoying the view."
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June 10th, 14th Day of Will on the Way: Misty Mountain Day.
I awoke at my usual 5:30 hour. I worked on the blog while Barb slept. By 7:00 we were up and doing our yoga excercises which we found helped us greatly. By 8:00 we were at breakfast and Barb was ecstatic that none of the other guests were up yet and we had the place to ourselves. Our host came in and greeted us wishing us a good journey.
The prediction was for rain but the morning was dry and cool. We had a pleasant walk to Bourg-Argental about 9 K from where we stayed. Here we found all that we needed for the day: a cash machine, a boulangerie, and a speciality grocery store that sold vegetables, fruits and cheeses. As it was Sunday we felt lucky to have found these shops open.
In the center of town we saw our first sign to Le Puy - 72 K, a trip of an hour by car but one that would take us four more days by the chamin. We headed out towards Les Setoux our next destination, another 16 K away.
The walk continued to gain in elevation and the weather began to change for the worse. I had hoped we would escape the front coming in but no such luck. Soon we were socked under a misty cloud which drizzeled on us the rest of the afternoon.
By 3:00 we had left civilization behind and were ascending and descending on rocky dirt roads in beautiful mountain forested lands. With our rain gear we kept dry though my feet hurt and they were feeling cold. We were able to follow our markers though they were less frequent and it was more challenging to find them than had been the case recently.
By 5:00 we found a sign telling us that Les Setoux was 4 K away. Encouraged by this we believed we would be there in an hour or so. Well that 4 K went on for what seemed like an eternity. I was practicing focussing on my breathing as this gave me something to concentrate on rather than my tired and fatigued body. It worked so well that at one point I was light-headed and in fear of passing out. I had to take a break and eat something to bring me back onto my body.
The ups and downs seemed interminable. There was a stretch where we couldn't find any of our red and white markers and we despaired of having to retrace our steps to find the last one seen.
Finally the ground leveled out again and we located our marker. Oh Yea! Soon we saw a welcome sign showing 1 K to Les Setoux. Though it seemed we had been walking far more than 3 K's since the sign, we were just happy to know that the next village was just ahead.
We reached it close to 7:00 and saw a notice at a house stating this was the place to get information about the Gite we were looking for. A friendly woman came out in response to her barking dog and told us where to find it and that the door was open. She also mentioned that there were three others staying the night and if we wanted breakfast it would be served here, at her house in the morning, not at the Gite.
We found the Gite without a problem. It was the last house on the chamin before exiting the village. This was a communal Gite with 38 beds. It was the first time we had stayed in this kind of accommodation. After taking off our boots and rain gear we found a dorm-like room upstairs with multiple bunk beds, a few with articles of clothing indicating someone had claimed them for the night.
We choose our own beds and were happy to discover a wall heater nearby as the room was chilly. After a nice hot shower we met two of the other pilgrims, a couple from Insbrook Austria, who were headed to Santiago where they left on May 3rd and had encountered all kinds of weather on the way, including snow.
Dinner that night was the remainder of our bread and cheese, a can of sardines, two nectarines and the last of our chocolate. Being that it was Sunday, and the village so small with only one inn which was closed, we had to make do with light fare.
I was more tired than I had been yet on this journey and went to bed at 8:30, even before Barb, a first. I was on the top bunk and snuggled into my sleeping bag with blankets from the Gite piled on top, I was soon fast asleep.
"Our Gite in Sestoux. Barb and Will on the Way. Misty Mountain."
"Barb on the way to Chavanay. Leaving this department and entering the Haired Loire. Saying goodbye to the Rhone as we enter Chavanay. St. Jacques watching over us. "
"Patrick and Claude two dear Pelerin. Patrick in rain rain gear and being funny."
"The missing piece of the puzzle."
"Will and Barb in rain. Barb and Patrick singing Utreia the pilgrim's song."
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June 9, 13th Day of Will on the Way: Shades of Green Day
Didn't sleep well last night. Woke up with an itch under my arm and thought about what Patrick had said about bed bugs. While I didn't think there were any I still was troubled in the remainder of the night's sleep. Though he meant well Patrick was full of warnings for the journey ahead. It bugged me, no pun intended, that I let his negative perspective, offered as help, get under my skin, again no pun intended. When talking with Barb about it later she said it was a lesson in taking my space. Patrick, while a lovely person, did have a big personality. I allowed myself to be impacted by it and seemed to shrink in the face of it. Learning to be present with others while holding my own was part of the gift of meeting him I now see.
The last dream of the night was one where I kept trying to go in one direction only to be thwarted and brought back to the same place I began, like a compass needle that wants to point north but another force pulls it to the south. When I thought about it the next day I realized it was a metaphor for my own life: I have to change the fundamentals of my own being if I want to go in a new direction, otherwise the patterns of the past will keep pulling me back to where I started.
We had breakfast at the restaurant in the hotel. It was the best part of the stay other than having the WiFi connection. The coffee was excellent and we had a croissant as well as bread, butter and jam. On departing the hotel we headed for the boulangerie and a little grocery store we found the previous afternoon. We skipped sandwiches and settled for a whole wheat baguette with cheese and fruit from the grocery. Having replenished our stocks we found the chamin and started climbing again, leaving the Rhone valley behind and now entering the Loire region.
The walk took us by vineyards and for the first time fruit orchards of apples and pear trees. The day was cool and sunny, though clouds were on the horizon and we felt it could quickly shift to rain. I had decided to change my walking pattern as my feet continued to hurt and I knew that this was a part of the message of last night's dream. I now paid attention to every step and lovingly thanked the earth for carrying me forth on the journey. I have enjoyed walking fast and powerfully in the past and was proud of the distance I could cover in a day. In fact I had expected to cover 30 K a day easily on this Way of St. Jacques.
Now I paid attention to each step and each breath going forward. Doing so brought me in touch with my heart and all the pent up emotion of the previous week came pouring forth in tears and weeping. On this journey all of my fears and insecurities were being confronted and all those places I would normally hide weren't to be found. I had to face my fears and move through them and be truly free of them. Just then we walked by a grotto with a statue of St Joseph holding a young Jesus by the hand. It seemed a perfect reflection of my experience in that moment.
The walk continued to take us to higher elevations. We were struck by all the different shades of green in the landscape. Everthing was so lush and verdent. We were happy to to be in the mountains again. While quite different from the hills we climbed after leaving Geneve, they were yet comforting in a way that flater parts of the walk didn't seem to offer us. The architecture of the houses and buildings also changed. We now saw square houses and structures built of brown stone. All uniform in style and design no matter where we went.
We passed through the village of Bessey and found a little welcome center for pilgrims. There was a source for fresh drinking water as well as a map of the region. It gave a history of the route from Geneve to Le Puy. We were surprised to learn that it had only been officially established in 1998 in response to the increased interest of pilgrims walking the Way.
After Bessey, the climbing got steeper. However, the weather remained comfortable. We stopped for lunch and rested for a while, taking a nice long break. As we sat enjoying our lunch several cyclists and hikers went by. As we were packing up to begin again one of the hikers waved as she walked by.
Down the road we caught up with her and she asked asked us if we were friends of Mikaela whom she had recently met on the chamin. This is part of the magic of the Way. Friends of new friends passing on greetings and messages to one another. She was German and her name was Barbara. She had also met Patrick and Claude earlier in the week. Barbara left us to stay at a nearby campground where she was to meet Mikaela and promised to pass on our greetings. We wondered if we might run into Mikaela again soon?
By late afternoon we had reached our destination of St. Julien Molin Molette, an old mill town in one of the valleys we were traversing. We had a reservation at a B&B but had vague directions to its location. We found it as we wound our way out of town discovering our domicile was the chateau we had seen in the distance as we were heading towards the village.
It was a beautiful mansion built, we later learned, in the 1860's. It had once been the home of the town's mill owners. However, a hundred years later when industry was going abroad, the owners fell in hard times and had to sell it. On arriving we were met by a lovely woman who showed us to our bedroom on the third floor. It was a big spacious chamber with French Windows overlooking a charming garden. The adjoining bathroom had a tub to soak in and we both took advantage of a bath before going down to dinner at 7:30.
By then we were both quite tired and hoped we wouldn't have to make conversation with the other guests staying there. We entered a large and beautiful wood paneled dining room with tall ceilings and a long table running down the middle. There we saw three other couples seated and two places set for us. Oh well what could we do! C'est la via! as they say in France.
Fortunately the pair we were seated next to did speak some English and we didn't have to work so hard to understand and be understood. The host and chef, the husband of the woman we had met on arriving, came in with an appertif. Both Barb and I declined, as we also later did with the wine. The man was a large jolly fellow with a wide girth and big mustache. He tried to cajole Barb into having at least one glass of wine but with no success.
Dinner began with an unusual salad of cold lentils with little bits of ham, served in individual toureens, very yummy. This was followed by delicious roasted chicken, a flan for dessert, with coffee and tea being served in an adjacent drawing room. We enjoyed the meal and the conversation was pleasent with the young couple from Lyon, but by the time coffee was served we were ready to retire. We excused ourselves at the soonest opportunity and went to our lovely room upstairs with our comfortable feather beds. I wrote the blog for a while and Barb was soon fast asleep.
"Barb and Will with family who came to our rescue when we had no place to stay. My bed at Villa Jenette. Old Carmalite Convent near Assieu.The Way of St. James. "
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The Way of Saint James, Day Twelve
June 8th, 12th day of Will on the Way: Partnership Day
I woke about 5:00. As Barb was sleeping I went out to the living room and wrote until about 7:00. By then the house was rising and the pilgrims getting ready to make their departure. We all sat down together to share the usual but welcomed fare of coffee, bread, and homemade jams. By 8:00 we and our gear were packed up in Jean's car and he took us back to the chamin.
It had started raining again so we all donned ponchos and rain pants and began our walk for the day. Barb and I were heading for Chavanay while Patrick and Claude were heading another 15 K farther. The route took us through forest paths that were riverlets from the downpour but the walk was tranquil and the rain pleasant. We walked for several hours before Patrick and Claude bid us goodbye as we passed one of the villages on route to Chavanay. We had exchanged emails and promised to connect again. As they walked away Barb said I have a feeling we will see them again, and I wondered how that would be possible?.
By this time the rain had abated and we were able to take off our ponchos, but kept them handy in case it started again. This part of the chamin was the least attractive so far. It took us parallel to the Rhone and we walked under buzzing power lines and could see a couple of cooling towers of a nuclear reactor in the distance. We stopped several times for food and pack breaks taking our time and having more conversation than our usual custom. This was our first day of not having purchased baguette sandwiches for lunch so we made do with our dried fruit and nuts and later ate our cans of tuna and sardines. It was during one of these breaks that Barb's prediction of seeing Patrick and Claude again transpired. Long after saying goodbye, as we were eating sardines and tuna, up the path they come, having stopped in the village for lunch. We said goodbye one last time and watched these two pilgrims depart making their way on the the Way.
It was during one of our breaks that the topic of bringing clients over from the US for a "Find Your Way on the Way" experience came up. The idea had first surfaced for me, on Vineyard Day, of taking people on a pilgrimage walk as a way of shifting their experience and perspective and helping them grow into a fuller self, as was happening to me. However, I didn't think further on it again until Patrick mentioned that he was going for an interview next week to be a mentor to troubled youth where the first month of the program would be spending time with that individual walking the Camino together. The Camino does heal and change us. I mentioned it to Barb and she immediately grew excited, quickly seeing the possibilities and rewards of such a venture for all involved. We spent the rest of our walk to Chavanay brainstorming ideas of what it would look like and how we would offer it to potential clients.
This conversation was also an extension of earlier talks we had had on how we might work together as we discovered our work was very complementary. And now that we had lived and walked together on the Camino, not only learning deeply about ourselves but also learning about how to be in partnership in harmony and grace. We were both learning to walk our talk together. Furthermore we had been putting into practice through our respective coaching and healing arts on this walk, the very things we would offer our clients next year the Chamin.
As we walked and talked ideas surfaced about what a person would gain from the experience of Walking the Way. One image that came forth was that of our being like a jigsaw puzzle. Some times you put it all together but there is a piece missing and you can't see the whole picture without the missing piece. Just then as we were walking along the highway I looked down and saw a jigsaw puzzle piece on the road! We were sure we had just had an affirmation from the universe. Thank-you St. Jacques!
We had fun creating and playing, passing the time in this way, being excited about the possibilities until we reached our friend the Rhone and crossed the bridge into Chavanay.
By the time we reached Chavanay the sun was out and we were warm. We found our hotel without any issue. It was on the main highway that passed through town and looked a bit down and out, like it had seen better times. This impression was amplified when we went inside. On entering there was a bar to the left with several patrons standing and talking, to the right was a restaurant area with a number of round wooden tables rather uninviting if I were looking for a place to enjoy a meal, and in front of us was a small reception desk where a surly woman curtly greeted us. We explained we had a reservation and asked to confirm if there was WiFi, this being the primary reason we were staying in Chavanay, to connect with the internet. She replied yes of course and seemed offended when I asked for the access code, telling me none was needed. We were taken up to room on the second floor. It was dumpy, ugly, hot, and noisy being right on the street. After she left us, Barb and I confered and agreed it wouldn't do. We returned downstairs and this time a man, one whom we believed we had spoken to on the phone, met us. We explained the room was too noisy and asked for one away from the street. He advised us that the only ones available were double beds, no single bedrooms were off the street. We asked to see it and found it to be quieter by far and though it didn't have a toilet in the room it did have a sink and shower. As we had learned to sleep in the same bed the previous night we agreed to take the room.
After making sure we could connect online we decided to go for a tour of the town and get some food as we had eaten little that day. We walked to the town center, about five minutes away and found a sweet little boulangerie where we purchased a mini quiche each and a treat: me a thick piece of baked flan and Barb a pain au chocolate. We took our goodies to a nearby park, ate our quiches and did yoga stretches for the next hour, saving the desserts for later. It was a beautiful afternoon and we felt happy to have "it off" from walking the Way.
Returning to the hotel I took a shower. However the hot water only lasted three minutes before getting cold. When I told Barb she said she would just take a sponge bath then. I thought it ridiculous that we shouldn't have a hot shower and again went downstairs to find the proprietor. When I explained the situation he seemed angry and said impossible! He then grabbed a key to another room had me follow him upstairs where he led me into another room and turned on the hot water tap in the bathroom, showing me there was hot water and then telling me angrily that we could switch rooms. I tried to explain that we didn't want to switch, I only wanted him to know there was no hot water in our bathroom and would he come and check it out. He agreed and once again there was hot water coming forth. I was confused and apologized for troubling him and he left seemingly placated. Barb then took a shower and had three minutes of hot water! I didn't try to talk to him again.
We had dinner in a cheery restaurant nearby. They were having a special that night of something called Tartins served with french fries and salad. There were a number of varieties of Tartin and the one we choose was delicious. Barb had a glass of red wine and I a glass of Monoco, a local drink of beer with lemonade and grenadine. I had seen it being poured from a tap for another customer and liked the pretty color as well as being curious to try it. It was a little sweet but tasty and refreshing. The waitress spoke some English and we had a nice conversation. I remarked to Barb that the experience showed me how the world was getting smaller when a waitress in a small French town speaks English and understands American conventions so well. Kind of cool and cool and kind of sad. We left having enjoyed our meal greatly.
We returned to the hotel both happy and full where we spent the rest of the evening sending pictures and blog updates to Kerry before "going to bed together."
"Barb, Chembre d' Hotes we stayed at in Cote St. Andre, Dramatic Vista before going down to Le Grand Lemps, Poppies and Le Grand Lemps church tower in distance."
"Michaela who became a dear dear friend to us both, Michaela's pack marches past the poppies. Nature is a flower arranger. Poppies and wheat."
"Pilgrim on the Rainy Way. The road of the pilgrims. Wheat fields ripening on the Way."
"The Villa Jenette. Will and Barb at special marker honoring pilgrims on the Way."
"Will and Barb in Rain gear. "
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June 7th, 11th day of Will on the Way.
Up at my usual 5:30 hour. Woke up grumpy and thought that today was going to be a lesson day. Had the sense that I should just start asking for help from within, praying, being a begger of Grace, but when you're grumpy it's not easy to do. I usually have to wait until I'm in deeper pain before I can surrender and be helped. Ah, when will I ever learn?
Blogged til 7:00 and awoke dear Barb from her own troubled dreams. Though she never once complained in our time together I could tell that her mood was also off this morning. We packed up and went down to breakfast. A beautiful spread of toast, croissants, jams, yogurt, fruits, and coffee.
We watched the weather on TV while eating and saw there was a front just to the west and north of our journey today and we were on the cusp of rain and bad weather. It also showed warm temperatures in the 80's were to be expected.
After breakfast our host drove us to the grocery store where we re-supplied with staples of dried fruit and nuts as well as dark Chocolate for the trail. We also bought minutes for the phone as it had run out from our initial purchase in Frangy, so many kilometers ago. Our last stop was a boulangerie for lunch sandwiches and an almond tart. Ready for the Way, our host drove us to what would have been our destination that night, Ravel-Tourdan. We said goodbye, thanking him for his kindness and looked for our first marker of the day.
This we found with ease and just then a tall man with a pack and walking stick appeared out of the blue. He looked like a pilgrim and we greeted him in French. He looked at us quizzically and then said good morning in German. We said we were Americans and he then said the same in English. He started walking and we followed thinking this was the direction of the chamin. I stopped to adjust something on Barb's pack and he went on walking, at one point stopping to look back at us. We noticed that he had an arm that hung oddly and walked with a limp, as if he might have had a stroke at one time. Anyway, on we went down this long hill without seeing any markers. Finally we decided to go back to the top where we began and so we did. Once there we saw that we had not paid attention or we would have seen the marker pointing in the other direction. We wondered what the story was with the Pelerin we had seen going into nowhere.
Our route took us through the village and out to the countryside again. We got lost briefly once again before finding our stride. The wind was blowing hard and was too all day. I kept thinking a storm was coming but it stayed blue skies and sunny all day. The wind kept us cool and.comfortable on what would have been a hit and.muggy day without it. We crossed paths with Alexander, a German pilgrim we had briefly met with Mikeala, outside Le Pin.
Mid morning we stopped for a snack. I pulled out the map and looked at the route we were on and where we were heading. As I looked at the time and kilometers outlined I couldn't see how we were going to get to our next destination before 10:00 PM as it was over 30K away! I asked Barb what she thought and she laughed and said that I must be looking at the alternate route because she had mapped out the route with our hosts of the evening before and they had made the reservations for hotel in Chavanay for that evening. However, as she looked again we saw that it would be impossible for us to make Chavanay that night. How it happened we didn't know for it seemed like the world had shifted since the night before and now we were in an alternate reality. Well alternate reality or not, we now needed to deal with the present situation and find a place to sleep that we could reach by evening. Looking on the map, that place was St.Romain-de-Surieu. There were several options listed for lodging and we called them but were unable to reach anyone. This being the case, we thought we ought to continue walking and try later.
The early afternoon was pleasant and the wind continued blowing hard. We stopped for lunch and Alex walked by again surprising us as he had been well ahead when he last passed us. Funny how people show up again and again when least expected on the Way.
When we were just shy of the town of Belgrade I thought it would be wise to call for accomdations again. This time we did get through but to our surprise they were both full for the night! No room at the inn for these pilgrims!
Well we didn't panic or even stress. We joked we might have to walk through the night to get to Chavanay but we both had head lamps and we would be fine. Just then a hiker approached and we could see by his scallop shell that he was a pilgrim. He stopped and asked us if we had seen another hiker pass by, one with white hair? No we hadn't. He then asked us where we were heading and we told him of our situation. He was French, but spoke very good English and he immediately said he had a reservation at a private home that took in pilgrims and thought he could find us a bed there too. Well long story short, Patrick, our new friend found us a place to stay. It was a miracle, and the way it all unfolded was magic.
From Belgrade we walled together to St.Domain-de-Serieu and met Jean, an elderly gentleman, who came to pick us up at a beautiful Carmelite Chapel. From there we went to Assieu a nearby town to pick up Claude, Patrick's white-haired friend who had taken an alternative route and thus separated from Patrick. The four of us were driven to Jean's home nearby where we met his lovely wife Luciene and were given a cool drink, a hot shower, a delicious hot meal and a clean bed. Thank you St Jacques!
It turned out that there is a society of friends of the Pilgrims of St. Jacques of Compostella who will offer up their homes to pilgrims in need of a place to stay. This provides an alternative to the Gites, B&B's and hotels for the pilgrims. They then offer a donation of 25-30 Euroes in exchange for the lodging. These hosts often have been pilgrims themselves as was the case of Jean and Luciene who had walked from Le Puy to St. Jean Pier de Port in 2003 and the following year had finished the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compestella in 2004. They were very proud of thier accomplishment and showed us an album with pictures of their journey. They were lovely sweet people and it was a treat to meet and stay with them.
Patrick and Claude were friends who had met the previous year when doing the pilgrimage from Le Puy to Santiago de Compestella. This year they were doing the Geneve to Le Puy route. They were both competitive walkers and put in an average of 30-35 K. per day, much more than Barb or I wanted to do. Patrick had injured his heel in the walking and I did some healing work on his foot prior to going to bed as I was happy to offer some service for all his help to us. However, while he accepted, he insisted that this was part of the experience of the Way, where pilgrims were ready to assist one another in times of need.
Barb and I were given the double bed as they thought we were a couple. We didn't say anything for we were only too happy to have a bed at all. By now we were comfortable in all ways with each other so it was no big deal to share a bed. As I fell asleep I thought again of the stranger we had met at the begining of this strange and miraculous day in Revel-Tourdan and I knew him to be St. Jacques who had appeared out of nowhere and returned to nowhere and had come to bless us with the magic of the Way.
"We see the first sign for Le Puy and then some houses. How far we have come! The view as we are leaving St Julian Molin Molette."
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The Way of Saint James, Day Ten
June 6th, 10th Day of Will on the Way:
I slept well and awakened with the first light and bird song at my usual 5:30 hour. Though a bit tired I felt rested. I packed up and then wrote until 6:30 when I awoke Barb. We were having breakfast at 7:00 hoping to be on our way by 7:30. Barb was in a deep sleep and was challenged in getting started. However, being the trooper she is she rallied and by 7:00 we were ready and headed downstairs for our petite dejouner. Hot black coffee, toasted baguette, and homemade jams. We ate our fill and made our snacks and said goodbye to Denise. She gave us directions on how to meet up with the chamin. Shortly before leaving it began to rain and we donned our ponchos, it was going to be a rainy walk today.
Since our day in the rain on Sunday I have learned to be much more vigilant in spotting the markers. Though I will say since Yenne they seem to be more frequent. I can now spot one a hundred yards away even being that I am somewhat near sighted. I believe when I am on my own, after Barb leaves me in Le Puy, I will be able stay on the Way without getting lost.
We picked up the chamin in Le Pin where we found a boulangerie that was open and bought two ham and butter sandwiches as well as two pain au chocolate. The proprietress wasn't the most friendly, but it was early and we were soaking wet and dripping in her shop having just come out of the the rain. On our way out of town we stopped to put on our rain pants. It was now raining steadily and was getting colder.
We had a long day ahead of us and needed to keep a steady pace to make our destination of Cote de St. Andre by 5:00. Our pace was brisk and my aches of the previous day were gone! It seemed a miracle. By 10:00 we were ready for a snack break. While sitting there we saw our friend Mikeala approaching. She stopped briefly for a hello and was soon on her way. We shortly followed behind her. The walk was pleasant and quite pretty in some parts. Only one very long ascent which led us to some spectacular views of misty mountains in the distance. The descent from the hill was rather trecherous and I was glad to be down on level ground again.
The bottom of the hill led us to Grand Lemps where we stopped by a steam in a field on the outskirts of town to eat our ham and butter sandwiches. We laughed when we looked inside and saw the butter was layered on in quarter-inch thick slabs. And though we both like butter, this was more than we wanted, throwing most of it out. As we were finishing our repast Mikaela walked by and waved from the road. We guessed she had eaten lunch in town which explained why she was now behind us.
Looking at the map we saw we are a little over half way to Cote de St. Andre. Rallying our energy we began the afternoon walk. Our feet were tired but nothing was seriously bothering us physically. Half an hour later we ran into Mikaela yet again, three times is a charm as my grandmother used to say, and she asked to walk with us.
The rest of the afternoon we walked together. Sometimes talking sometimes not. Her being with us seemed to give Barb and I an extra boost of energy and by 4:45 we had made our way to our B&B called the Villa Janette. Mikaela happened to be staying at a nearby place too, so we parted with goodbyes of see you tomorrow on the chamin.
The Villa Janette was a lovely old house with a spacious garden. Our hostess greeted us and showed us our suite, which included a bathroom with a big tub. We both took long hot baths, a rare and special treat on the Way. After a rest we went to the garden to do yoga stretching, something we were committed to doing no matter how tired we were for it made such a difference the next day.
Our hostess called us into dinner as we finished our stretching. A lovely table was set for four and soon we met her husband and inn keeper, whose full time job was running the chambre d'hote as a B&B is called in France. We were served yet another gourmet dinner of fish, a meddly of vegetables and individual servings of cheese soufflees. This was followed by a beautifully presented strawberry tart made by our hostess with strawberries from her garden. She was in charge of the desserts.
Conversion over dinner ranged far and wide. The gentleman was in commercial sales before starting this business and his wife a nurse at a local home for the aged. They told us of the history of the house, it having been a maternity home, a factory for making kid gloves, and other incarnations prior to their taking it over They had many visitors from the Way, but few American had been guests. The house did have a nice energy and I felt it was happy in its new role.
At the end of the evening we got around to talking about how to make it to Le Puy within the eight days we had left. We all brainstormed for a a while before coming up with a plan to skip one of the days by driving the route rather walking it. Though this meant breaking the walk's continuity we couldn't see any other way, primarily due to lack of accomodations on the way if we were to do longer walks to make up for the time needed to get to Le Puy by the 15th. Then we talked about which day to skip and how to manage it. While it is common for people to hire taxis for this very reason we weren't sure what town would have taxis to do so. Because we knew that our current location would have a taxi we decided on leaving from Cote de St. Andre. Then Barb had the brilliant idea of asking if our hosts knew of anyone who might wish to earn a little money and drive us instead. Our host agreed he could do it and offered us a reasonable fee for the trip. We then made reservations for the next evening's stop at Chavanay and left a message for Mikaela at her host's home that we would not meet in her on the chamin tomorrow.
To bed we went happy to have resolved this dilemma.
Day Ten Photos
"Barb meets a friend and we see beauty in a field of grass. Buildings in Loire have a different structure. We view a chapel over Chavanay."
"Leaving Chavanay with the Rhone below and it's a long way to Santiago. We have a lunch break. I've never seen such wild flowers. "
"Reminder of our Way. Here is our shelter for pilgrims. St Joseph greets us on the Way."
"Shades of green and we arrive at our chateau in the village of Bessey."
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The Way of Saint James, Day Nine
June 5th Day 9 of Will on the Way: Fresh Start and Half Way Day
Woke up several times in the night. Second time had dream about an aborigine named Charles who said he would be a guide for me on this journey. I've never had a relationship or any connection with the aborigines so this was a happy and surprising connection.
Finally got up about 6:15 and felt more rested than I had to date on the trip. I packed up and soon heard Barb moving around too, the earliest she had been up. It was cool outside and cloudy so we planned on being prepared for possible rain. We finished up and said goodbye to our chalet with appreciation for its shelter and rest.
As we left and surveyed the campground we realize we had had the prime accomdations at the place, the only site with its own bathroom and shower. We laughed for we were the pilgrims, who are often accepting the simplest, least expensive places to stay, and we had been living like a king and queen while there!
Another yummy French breakfast of croissant, coffee, etc. and we were on our way, or so we thought! After going the right direction then being unsure of it, then going the wrong direction and getting confused, we finally came back to Le Coin Tranquil, the campground, and were put on the correct route to connect us to the chamin.
We passed through Les Abrets, a mid sized town, where we visited the cash machine and of course the boulangerie for our lunch. This time we splurged and ordered a lemon tart too! Across the street was a church with many people lined up to get in and more arriving all the time. A funeral was in process and the person must have been important or well regarded for such a showing.
Once out of town we passed by wheat and corn fields. The wheat was gorgeous, tall and straight with big full heads of grain. The corn also taller than that we had seen earlier. In the distance we could see the hills and mountains we had traversed after leaving Yenne. The sky had cleared and the air was fresh and brisk. The clouds a billowing white against a background of azure blue. It was about 65-70 degrees and was the nicest day we had for walking yet.
We stopped for a break and watched two big hawks playing together. The terrain had changed and offered panoramic vistas. It was during this rest I realized I had lost my Celtic silver bracelet. I had been wearing it the first few days of the journey, but had put it away in a side pocket of my pack when my sweat began tarnishing it. I was a bit sad and angry at myself for not taking better care. I also realized that things are lost and shed on the pilgrims path; this was a symbol perhaps of an old part of me no that is longer needed.
Though I felt rested and regenerated from the day's break, my feet, my right knee and right hip were starting to hurt. I couldn't quite believe it! I thought by now I would be in top form and the aches and pains would be behind me. By the time we stopped for lunch I was miserable. Barb massaged my feet and did some energy work on the left foot which was the worst, after which I broke down crying. I saw myself being unable to complete the journey and felt like a little boy who is trying so hard but can't quite seem to make it. It brought up old childhood stuff. I realized again that I'm not going to be able to "power" through this adventure as I have been able to with other challenges in the past. This is going to be accomplished by Grace alone, and in truth that of course is why I'm on this journey. It is part of the beauty of the Way. Each day we are confronted and humbled in some form or manner, be it physical pain, emotional confronting, finding ourselves lost, uncomfortable weather, etc. Being a pilgrim is saying to the universe I want to grow and change and I am willing to surrender to the process.
After lunch I felt better and the walking was easier. The route took us through lovely, shaded forest paths and the climbs were mild for the most part. We were headed for a B&B at Plage de Pin, right on little lake. The road to get there took a fork off from the marked chemin and we knew to be looking out for it. About 3:00 I noticed a shoe lace was needing tying so we stopped for a pack break.
While resting we saw a couple of hikers approaching and as they neared I thought I recognized our friend the Swiss student, Mikeala, who'd we last seen when taking a break on the way to Chanaz. Sure enough it was she with another young man, a German, on his way to Santiago. We were delighted to see her and she us. She stopped and chatted while the fellow went on. It turned out that she too had stayed with M. Louis at St.Maurice, a day behind us (after being caught in the same rain storm as we). However, he was absent having needed a break and someone, a woman had taken over for him. We were curious if she had received the "royal treatment?" She had not.
In the course of our coversation she mentioned where she was heading which prompted Barb to recheck our own directions. We said goodbye to Mikeala and after sharing the delicious tart got up to begin walking again only to discover that our turn off was right there where we had parked for a break. Had the shoe lace not been loose, had Mikeala not stopped by, had the sequence of events not transpired as they did, we would have gone past the fork and been lost yet again! Thank you Charles!
The turn led us down a steep hill and soon we could see the lake beyond. Beautiful! It didn't take us long to find our Gite and meet our hostess for the evening, another Denis, a lovely gracious white-haired lady in her 70's. She showed us to our quarters in a very old structure, then invited us to have a cool drink outside overlooking the charming blue waters of the lake. We had a nice conversation and found out her husband had had back surgery today in Lyon. She seemed confident that he was well cared for and would visit him tomorrow.
After our drink we repaired upstairs and took our showers. Our hostess, Denis, offerd to wash our clothes in a machine and we accepted being happy to have a break from this pleasant task and to have our travel towels washed too. While I read Barb looked at our upcoming route and discovered that if we were to make Le Puy in time for her to leave for Geneve we would have to do a 10 day waking tinerary in 9 days! Beginning with 27 K walk tomorrow just to catch up with the beginning of the 10 to become the 9 day walk! Quite the reversal of having no hurry and plenty of time! We laughed at this and while we thought we could do so fine, we also felt a bit sad the the end of our trip together was rushing towards us. However, on reflection, we realized today was our half way day and even with the new schedule we had a lot of time still to enjoy one another on the Way.
Before dinner we went ouside and did yoga stretches together. These helped the soreness and stiffness immensely. While stretching, looking out on the beautiful lake, we were surprised by a dog herding along the path in front if us, first goats, then a little later a gaggle of geese and finally a white baying donkey came up the lane! We later asked our hostess about the managarie of animals (there were also llamas behind the house) and I didn't quite understand the explaination.
Dinner was served at 7:00, which was the hour at which we ate almost universally on our trip. A table was set up outside and we enjoyed a lovely green salad from Denis's garden, served with cold chicken and a delicious mustard dressing. This course was then followed by a fabulous vegetable ratatouille accompanied by potatoes cooked to a perfect softness and flavored with a little butter and tarragon. Most of the vegies in the dish were from her garden as were the potatoes. A hearty local red wine was imbibed with the meal. Dessert came last with fresh strawberries, again from the garden, topped with "white cheese" fromage blanc, a cross between creme fresh and yogurt. Wow do we ever eat well! Denis joined us for dinner and we chatted about a number of things, she doing most of the talking. I think she enjoyed our company and as it grew dark we bid her good night and made our way to our room upstairs, with the agreement we would meet for breakfast at 7:00, our earliest yet.
Barb went to bed and I stayed up writing the day's blog. I realize that on average I spend between 2-3 hours a day on writing and editing the entries. By 11:00 I had to stop, though not complete, and promised to finish in the morning which I am now doing at 6:10 on day 10!
"After the storm we had a fresh start. Another sign to keep us on track. And guess who?"
"Thinking of lunch. Happy to see the sign! More beautiful French flowers. Our new friend Mikeala from Switzerland."
"A pastoral scene. A pilgrim looking back. The mark of the Way, on this our day 9."
"A tired pilgrim. Llamas and the laundry at the Gite and the hills in distance, from whence we came."
"Dinner at the lakeside Gite. The official Gite symbol. Lake at Le Pim."
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June Fourth Day 8 of Will on the Way: Rest Day
We went to bed at 10:30 and I awoke at 1:00. I read for a while before falling asleep again at 2:00. By 5:30 I was up and feeling much refreshed, though my legs were achey. I wondered if there would be a time when they wouldn't ache again? I arose and stretched and did my breathing exercises. I felt good and was so happy to have a day off. I read and wrote some more before awaking Barb at 8:00 in time for breakfast at the restaurant.
We were the only ones there but a table was ready. Coffee, bread, fig jam (I thought of my brother Rob as it is a favorite of his) and butter were our fare. Barb being bold asked for a croissant, as it never hurts to ask, and we were rewarded with two amazingly delicious flakey croissants. What a treat!
After breakfast we came back to our chalet and I did a shamanic healing for Barb. Her vision was still blurred and her sacrum hurt. We were able to improvise a healing table by putting the couch pad on the dining table and it worked like a charm. I had my rattle and little drum and an hour and a half later her vision was cleared and her back felt fine. Thank you helping Spirits!
We washed some clothes, a practice I am enjoying on the Way. The basic needs of a few clothes that need to be cleaned every other day and the pleasure of doing them by hand is satisfying. We put them out to dry on a rack, provided with the chalet, in the emerging sun. By then it was time for lunch.
This was the first day in a week I wasn't ravenous for a meal! However, the pleasure of a fresh cheese omelette with a green salad and piping hot French fries was nothing to turn my nose up to. It was a wonderful meal, yummy! During lunch we brainstormed themes of each day and for the journey to date in general. It has been a very rich week!
After our meal we came back and took long naps. What a sweet luxury! After awakening I caught up with blog entries and edited those days not yet sent to Kerry, days 3-8. Barb also slept and then did yoga exercises. By 7:00 we were ready for our meal at the restaurant. Tonight we had chicken with a wine sauce, potatoes, and salad. Desert was similar to the previous evening's meal, a choc mouse with pears and a vanilla cream sauce. All oh so good.
After dinner I had hoped to email the blogs and pics to Kerry but for some reason my trusty phone wouldn't pick up the camp's WiFi signal. Oh well, must wait until the next opportunity. We went to bed early, Barb wanting to finish the book she picked up in Bonmont, and I to polish up the entries. Tomorrow to Le Pin we go.
"Rest day in our chalet in a four star campground."
June 3, Day 7 of Will on the Way: Mother's Day in France and Pouring Day
After breakfast we packed, prepared for rain. The storm of the night before had abated and the skies cleared some. However, we could see rain in the valley below. The morning's walk was pleasant and mild. We stopped at a couple of churches and had lunch by the cemetery of the second. It was full of fresh flowers as it was Mother's Day in France and we witnessed several people stopping by to put flowers on graves.
By the time we finished lunch it began to sprinkle so we put on our ponchos and rain pants and set off again. Soon it was raining but our equipment kept us dry. An hour later it began to pour and didn't abate. I say pour because it was coming down in buckets. We couldn't stop to rest without getting cold and even wetter so we had to keep going. We walked for the next four hours solidly without stoping. The rain itself was pleasant and if I'd not been uncomfortable from the heavy pack and sore feet I would have enjoyed it. Halfway through our walk in the downpour Barb started having trouble seeing. We thought it might have been the sun tan lotion running into her eyes, but this made little sense as the rain had been in her face for several hours already. We tried stopping and washing them with water from our camelbacks but it did little good. This lack of sight caused a fall on a muddy path and luckily there was no harm done.
Fortunately the Way was well marked and we were able to stay on track. We had expected an 18 K walk but by the time we reached our destination of Lourey it was more like 22 K. We had a reservation at a campground and when we arrived we were so relieved to be out of the rain. Our accomdations were in a little cabin-like structure called a Chalet with two rooms, a shower, a kitchen and sitting area. It was new and clean and bright. We were overjoyed! So much so that we decided to take a day off the journey and have a rest day tomorrow.
Dinner was included in our fare and was gourmet, the restaurant being a four star establishment. I had the best sleep since being at Kim and Pim's home eight days before. How many lifetimes seemed to have passed since then!
"Bee hives on leaving St. Maurice. Goat Cheese is a speciality of this region. The first day of rain and it poured!"
"More wild flowers in wheat fields. Joan d'Arc. Will and St.Jacques"
"Mother's Day in France-flowers left at graves of mothers past. Will gets a pilgrim's shell for his pack"
June 2, Day 6 on the Way: Celtic Forest Day
Once again awoke with the sun. My body was achy and tired. I went outside and stretched in the monastery garden. The sun, just starting to illuminate the surroundings with a golden glow, promised another sunny warm day. I was amazed yet again that I could feel so much better than the previous evening. As I considerd the wisdom of staying and resting another day, a raven flew out of a nearby tree squaking loudly at me, repeating this several times. I wasn't clear about it's message.
After breakfast Barb and I pulled Runes. I asked for guidance and direction. The three that I pulled, journey, separation reversed, and patience/courage, helped me decide to go on that day. I felt renewed and humbled. A layer of my ego self had been stripped away. I was deeply grateful for the shift in my perspective and promised I would be gentle on myself that day.
Off we went leaving the monastery behind and finding no boulangerie with ready made sandwiches, stopped at a cafe/bar where the proprietress made us monster footlongs to take away. Soon we were out of town making an ascent to a chapel of Mary overlooking Yenne and the surrounding valley. She was beautiful and her smile and grace followed us through the day.
The ascent continued and we spent most of the day climbing, eventuality gaining an elevation of 2300 meters. It was a steep forested climb, and though challenging was shady and cool most of the way. My pack fit well. The struggles of the previous day had enlightened me on carrying it differently. It now hugged my back snuggly and I used socks on my shoulder pads to give extra cushioning. I sailed up the mountain with a vim and vigor that surprised us both.
We learned that the forest was known as the Celtic Forest. There were ancient rock out-croppings within it and the path paralleled the Rhone way below. It was magical. I was happy and full of spirit. I told Barb I felt like a teenager with youthful energy and playfulness. She concurred she experienced the same.
We enjoyed our snack and lunch breaks as ever. At first I wondered if I would really eat the whole sandwich but without effort it was soon gone. The forest trail ended just short of our destination of St. Maurice de Rothenere.
We had reservations made the night before at the monastery. It was not the Gite we had originally planned on as Barb was unable to connect with that host by phone. The receptionist at the monastery, who helped make the call, suggested this other place, saying the man was very nice.
When we got there it was in a beautiful setting high on a hill overlooking a wide panorama of villages and valley below with the Chartreuse mountains in the distance. M. Louis Verney met us, a gentleman in his late sixties perhaps, speaking to us in German. We quickly explained French was easier for us to understand. He switched over easily but was to continue to forget and to speak to Barb in German throughout our stay. It was one of many perculiarities of M. Louis we were to discover.
Cool drinks were offered and gladly received, this being a practice at most places and very welcomed by hot and weary pilgrims. After being shown to our quarters and showering, we took time to do some wash. When we hung the clothes on the line outside to dry we saw the weather was changing. A storm was coming our way. The elevation gave us a dramatic view of the front sweeping towards us.
Louis soon called us to dinner. The house was large, very large, and quite old. It looked like it had been built on an even older structure and had a musty smell that permeated every room. Dinner was served in a big area full of round tables covered with maps and guide books. We were seated at a long table with one other guest, Robert, our fellow pilgrim from Bonmont.
An apperitif of Mescal wine was followed by green salad, a delicious dish of pasta in cream sauce with pork and a vegetable called black root. Desert was a lovely Choc mousse with pears, not to mention the plate of local cheeses offered but passed on by us both.
We enjoyed a nice conversation with Robert who spoke some English. He was retired from a career in industrial sales, had one daughter, and lived in Freiburg, Germany. Louis came and went during the meal. We saw no other person though strangely enough we did hear one short conversation between Louis and a woman's voice but never saw nor heard her again. We later wondered about that voice.
After dinner Barb and I retired to our room only to soon be called by Louis to come for the "exhibition." We followed Robert down yet another set of stairs to a room filled with pictures, post cards and stuff showing different points of interest on the pilgrimage route. After a time here we were led again by Louis outside to a very old wooden door that opened into an ancient stone walled chapel beneath the house. It was dark inside except for a few lit candles. To the left of the door was an old wooden organ which Louis began to play while the three of us were bid to sit on wooden benches each holding a votive candle. It was creepy! When he finished playing he had us stand and and invited us to state our reason for doing the Pilgrimage. We did, in French, as he didn't speak any English. He then asked us to place our candle at whichever respective Saint's alter we wished to have a blessing from, having first explained our various options. I choose St. Jacques, Barb, Mary. Then we sang a song that Barb was familiar with, one of the pilgrims on the Way, and finally he asked me to close the ceremony with a blessing. While touching in a way I was glad to be out of there.
However, the tour was not over. From the chapel we re-entered the house and were led to a very odd space that had stange French disco-like music playing and strobe lights flashing off the walls. It was a long narrow room with a bar and bar chairs to the left made of chrome like metal. Louis gave us a cup of very strong liquor made from plums. It was awkward, as by this point Barb and I didn't know if we should laugh or run away. Louis was carrying on about the light of liberty and politics. Finally we were able to politely excuse ourselves and make our exit to bed.
Once back in our room we both had a good but somewhat nervous laugh about what we had experienced and decided we would be glad to be on our way tomorrow. I slept fitfully feeling the presence of old spirits as a storm raged through the night. I was glad when morning came and we bid Louis and the house goodbye!
"Barb and M. Louis Verney our host on Day 6. Capuchin monastery where we stayed in Yenne. Mother Mary watches over us."
"Enchanted Celtic Forest. The gnome peeking out after forest walk. St. Jak in ancient cross."
"Pilgrim on the mount.View From St. Maurice where we spent night on day 6. View of Rhone as we climbed the mountain all day long."
June 1, Day 5 of Will on the Way: Vineyard Day
Woke up with the sun. Went out to the garden and caught up on the blog. Find I enjoy writing in the morning. The process itself brings me a joy that I haven't really experienced so fully as I have on this walk. There is a discipline to getting started but once on my way I realty like it, even with this thumb typing.
I let Barb sleep in as she was so tired the day before. By 8:30 we were having breakfast and by 10:00 had said goodbye to Denis and were in village getting our ham, cheese, and tomato sandwiches prepared at a little cafe. Once done we found our signage which pointed to Yenne, our next stop. This we followed for a while but saw no markers. We confired with the map but were confused about where to go. Over the next hour we asked five different people who seemed to give us similar yet unclear directions. At last we found our way to the Way and had to laugh because it turned out it continued right outside the door of where we spent the night - at the El Camino!
The walk took us away from the river and back into the hills again. It was hot and muggy and as the day progressed became more so. However, the path was nice and took us by a very sweet little chapel where we stopped and read some missives and poetry offered by past journeyers.
Soon we were passing through vineyards and going up and down hills. They were impressive and grand in their scope. The Rhone was far below to our right. We stopped several times for a snack and then lunch. Passed a fountain where I soaked my head as it needed cooling within as well as without. Today was the first day of the walk that I was having a hard time emotionally and psychically. My mood was unsettled and my spirit mostly irritated. I was not enjoying the physical beauty as I had the prior days as I was distracted. The temperature rose to the low 90's and the hills were getting steeper. I had a of judgements about myself and kept trying to find a quiet space within. At one point I did say to Barb that I was reminded of being like Lars, my friends' Kim and Pim's 8 month old baby, I was tired and in need of a nap and a diaper change. I did have a breakthrough where I felt my adult self, my big Will, take charge and little Will was able to fall asleep on my shoulder, like I'd seen Lars do the same on Pim's.
The walk to Yenne was to have been a relatively short one, 4+ hours, but the day dragged on and on. One highlight was the little chapel on our last big ascent of the day, the Chapel Romano, which had once been a temple to a Roman farm and fertility god. However, as we arrived big mowers and weed eaters were busily at work and the noise ruined the tranquil rest we had been led to expect on our arrival.
The descent from the chapel mount was steep and grueling. The only saving grace was that we were in the shade yet it took us almost half an hour to reach the bottom. Once there we still had an hour and a half to Yenne. I checked the temp and it was 83 degrees at 4:30.
It took asking for directions from several people before we found our destination, the monastery of the Cappuccins. We passed through Yenne, a quaint French town. The locals were at the cafes sitting outside drinking glasses of cold beer and how good that looked to me at that moment! The route took us to the edge of town where we saw the first sign for the monastery, and then the buildings themselves: an 18th century structure walled with small corner turrets. Once inside we could see it had lovely green lawns and trees in its center. When we checked in they were surprised that we had come from Chanaz, as it was ususal for the pilgrims to have arrived much earlier with the shorter distance to Yenne. We wondered the same thing for it was a day that dragged on and on.
While Barb and the kind woman at the reception made reservations for the next day, at St. Maurice de Rotherent, I went to our room and showered and crashed hard till dinner at 7:30. I could barely move I was so tired and physically sore. During dinner Barb suggested, if I wanted, we could take a break day. She reminded me that there was no hurry and no schedule. She also said that we had been exerting ourselves consistently for five days and our bodies weren't used to such hard exertion. Hearing her say all this along with a hearty meal of pasta and meatballs and three liters of water helped my disposition greatly. I think too, I was suffering from heat and sun exhaustion as my face was flushed and and my eyes bloodshot. We decided to see how I felt the next morning. Frankly, at that point, I didn't see how I was going to go on without a rest day. I went to bed taking a couple of Tylonal and some Wellness Formula tablets and slept on and off fitfully. It was the first day on the Way that I didn't feel a deep sense of gratitude and I was troubled and saddened by that.
"Barb at little chapel near Chanaz. We see Black Mary on the Way and Will's water wheel as we leave Chanaz."
"Many flowers, and we get lost in Chanaz. Poppies in fields of wheat-- a sight seen over and over and always beautiful."
"Not only were there flowers everywhere but Saint Jacques was with us everywhere too. Will is on the Way and it is vinyard day!"
"The view of the Rhone from San Romano. And the San Romano Chapel after a Long uphill climb."
"Will at his worst! And getting ready for his breakdown."
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May 31, Day 4 of Will on the Way
Woke up once again with the sun, about 5:30. Had slept the best night yet and saw that it had rained the night before. I liked this early hour to catch up on my writing and also with emails as the hotel had WiFi. I am so grateful for my smart phone and all that it allows me to do. From talking pictures, to reading books, to writing my blog (I'm.getting better at typing with my thumbs - it gives a whole new meaning to being all thumbs!), to staying connected to the world beyond the Way. Barb enjoys sleeping in longer and is still catching up on her jet lag.
Breakfast was in the restaurant below, the river Rhone sweeping by as we enjoyed delicious couissants, the most buttery and flakey I'd tasted. Great black coffee, baguette, butter, fresh jam and oj completed the repast. How lovely it is to eat so well. And to know that I will be burning it up and more on the day's walk while getting to look forward to more of the same later. Oh joy!
As we packed up I made the decision to leave my pillow behind. I had brought it not knowing if one would be provided at the Gites. It was lightweight but took up needed space in my pack and when Barb assured me that there would be pillows on the way, I said goodbye hoping it might find a home with another traveler. It was the first article to be shed. I wonder what will be next?
We left the hotel prepared for a rainy walk today as the weather was predicting rain and there were rain clouds in the heavens. Crossing the bridge to the other side of town, a beautiful bridge with a statue of Mary atop the middle, we found our way to the boulangerie to buy our lunch sandwiches. These bakeries are one of Barb's favorite things in France and I can see why. They are all so cheery and clean and bright and full of wonderful smells with every imaginable pastry and treat displayed behind shiny glass cases. It certainly makes my child's's heart happy with the anticipation of what I could eat.
We picked out our sandwiches, Barb tuna, me chicken and began the day's walk to Chanaz, a 21 K walk. Today our route led us along the river the whole day and with the exception of one up climb it was flat terrain the whole way. The sky cleared and it was muggy and humid. We saw our first vineyards, some like large garden plots, others whole "fields." There were no grapes on them that I could see as yet. Stopping for a pack break our friend, the Swiss student, passed us by with a hello and said she had gotten lost having missed a sign which explained her now being behind us. I gave Barb a shoulder rub for she said today was her most sore yet. She was impressed with my skill in finding the sore spots.
The rest of our walk was leisurely with the clouds kindly giving us shade without raining or being gloomy. The path took us by corn fields and through poplar groves. The corn was only about 4" high and I wondered if it would be "knee high" by the fourth of July?" as they say in Indiana. Lunch was delicious, a different variation on yesterdays chicken sandwich.
The route was pleasant and I felt the presence of long ago pilgrims taking the same path to Spain on the chemin. When we were not walking in our our meditative state, Barb and I were able to have longer conversations as the path was wide and could walk side by side. Barb is a gifted life and business coach and her insights were thought-provoking and supportive of my own personal journey. I thought how lucky am I to have such a companion, who is not only playful, adventurous and fun, but also wise and knowledgeable. We talked much of co-dependencey and how that in and of itself is a "disease", often on the other side of addictive relationships, and having compassion and awareness for ourselves is key to healing from it. Once again hearing that I'm not responsible for another's feelings, that there is nothing that I need to fix in them, but am only responsible for being aware of and managing my own anxiety is so key to changing the patterns I so often fall into.
By 5:15 we found our way to our destination - the quaintest, cutest little village of Chanaz looking over the Rhone, separated from the "mainland" by a canal and reached by crossing a little unusual bridge. The houses looked like they were out of a story book with bright flowers growing from hanging pots and window boxes everywhere. Our Gite was the El Camino appropriate for two weary pilgrims.
We met our hostess, Denis, who spoke French so clearly that I was surprised I could understand much of what she said. We were in a 3 bed room and she asked us if we were ok if a third party came later. As this was a "dorm" we of course said yes, however, hoped that we would have it to ourselves, which we did.
We showered, washed clothes, and waited for dinner. Barb read a good book she picked up at Bonmont, as her Kindle had died in Geneve, and I wrote my blog. Dinner was ready at 7:00. The weather was lovely and we ate outside. As we sat there I was flooded with a feeling of joy and appreciation for my life, for what I had created with this journey, for all the beauty I was seeing of France, for the lovely people I was meeting and how I was growing into myself as a wiser, more confident, and happier being.
Dinner was incredible! Again! We began with a quinoa salad accompanied by homemade brown bread, followed by the best pasta I'd ever tasted with roasted zucchini and ham, in a light cream sauce. The pasta itself was total melt in your mouth. I was thinking of my dear sister-in-law, Pammy, and how she would have loved it, being a pasta connoisseur herself. We had a red wine from the region that had a beautiful light ruby color that was as good to look at as it was to drink! Denis joined us for dinner and I was able to follow the whole conversation. In fact I had a breakthrough as they say in coaching lingo. I decided to participate by speaking in my broken French, regardless of how incorrect it might be. I had no problem being understood and it was so freeing. Barb was an inspiration as she also plows forward fearlessly though her French, while better than mine for sure, is not yet fluent. Later in the meal Denis' daughter Sarah joined us. She was 12 going on 15. Very poised and self-confident, in her fist year of English at school and spoke very well for such a short amount of time learning the language. She also liked singing and said most songs she liked were in English. She said her Dad was a nomad and didn't have permanent home (her parents were divorced). He had taken her to Morraco, Spain, Greece,Switzerland, and she hoped to go to the US. She was quite impressive and I wouldn't be surprised if she became a person of note and notice some day.
After the wonderful meal and company we repaired to our room and I gave Barb leg and back rub while telling her about Seth's ideas of the nature of reality. She then fell asleep right away and I stayed up and finished the day's blog entry.
"We arrive in Chanaz and our Gite for the night and are greeted by our host, Denise."
"Many mothers and babies have greeted us on the Way in this quaint town on the canal. A typical village home in the Savoie. Views of the river always."
"Entering the Savoire region of France we see the first of many vineyards. Mother Mary watches over on on our pilgrimage. Bridge over Rhone in Seysell"
"Barb at hotel in Seysell on the Rhone."
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The Way of Saint James, Day Three
May 30 Day 3 of Will on the Way: Edelweiss Day
Woke up to a beautiful but warmer morning in Chaumont. It's been my habit this journey to waken with the sun about 5:30. I wasn't feeling so good, a bit hung over and a headache from dehydration and the wine I enjoyed with dinner the night before. I knew better about the wine as I hadn't had enough water the previous day, yet who could say no to a bottle of delicious French red wine. Oh well...I wrote in the blog while Barb slept until 7:00.
Our hosts made us a lovey breakfast of homemade yogurt, jams, apple tart, and fresh bread. Barb had coffee, me hot chocolate. That was my only disappointment as the hot chocolate was an instant mix with hot milk, not homemade as expected, though still yummy. Barb joked that it was good for my child's heart which made us laugh hard. We had been talking about having the heart of a child, one of my aspirations for many years.
We bid goodbye to our sweet hosts and made our way to Frangy, a town about an hour away. There we bought staples for the walk, raisins, apricots, sardines, and of course dark chocolate! We also found an ATM and I was so happy that I could retrieve Euros with ease. It took several stores to locate a SIM card for our phone and we got lucky at the stationary store. The last stop was at the boulangerie where we obtained delicious tomato, chicken and mayo sandwiches. On the way out of town we ran into our friends the German pilgrims who had lost one of their party to a bad knee. Now they were nine.
The road out of Frangy led us through farm fields that were ripe with farm smells. It was getting warm and for the first time on our trip humid. The trail went on for some time by farms before coming out to a black top road. This led us through a charming village that had a sign for a wc and potable water, a first. However, when we went to look it was ferme, closed. On we went and stopped at a crossroads in the shade and had what I now call a "pack break," a chance to drop the pack, rest our feet and enjoy the view. Not only was the scenery gorgeous, there was a lot of farm traffic with tractors pulling big loads of hay. What was interesting to me was that the drivers were mostly young men probably in their early twenties. This surprised me for I was used to thinking of farmers being older men and that young people would shy away from farming. It somehow gave me a feeling of optimism. We saw the Germans pass by again for the last time. Two things that stuck us was that one of them was carrying a guitar, the one we sang to the first night in Bonmont and that he was wearing Birkenstocks (a sandal like shoe). We marveled that he could walk with a guitar and wear such shoes on the chemin.
Later we stopped for lunch and how good did our chicken and tomato and mayo sandwich taste! We also broke out the 72 percent Choc which was fabulous. It was during this break I happened to look at my backpack again, wondering if I couldn't make it more comfortable. As I checked out the shoulder straps I discovered there was another way to adjust the whole mechanism and added another two inches to their length. It made a huge difference to my comfort! Thank you St Jacques! So glad to find this out on day 3 rather than week 3!
The path crossed back and forth between black tops and stoney dirt ways. The river was now to our right and we anticipated two more hours to Seysall. We had bought a map at the stationary store showing the route from Geneve to Le Puy. We consulted it as we came to an alternate route turning off to the right. To the right it showed a Gite, Edelweiss, and we assumed (Haha!) that it was not our route but we were to continue on forward. An hour later after going down a monster hill and thinking how glad I was that I wouldn't have to ascend it again, we discovered that we chose incorrectly! Our third day of "getting" lost! And all three at day's end when we were most exhausted! Back up that long hill and to the turn off to Seysell we went. Another opportunity to surrender and be in the moment. And another lesson in double checking.
It was a long descent to Seysell and we dragged into town about 6:15. We found the hotel and to our happy surprise there was Robert, one of the pilgrims of the first night in Bonmont.The hotel was closed and he was waiting to get in. We had thought we had to be there by 7:00 to save our reservation, but it turned out that it didnt open until 7:00. Eventually the hotelier showed up and we got our room.
Meanwhile while we were waiting, a neighbor from across the street who befriended us, introduced us to a handsome man who came riding by on his bike, a fellow American. He was an expat from LA who was spending a few months in Seysall. He talked about the great energy of Seysell and encouraged us to stay a few days to explore it. He seemed very interesred in me especially when he heard I was a shaman. He asked if I might help him with a hurt knee. As I had brought a drum and rattle with me for that very purpose I was interested in the possibility and suggested he come by after we had eaten dinner.
Our room was lovely with a window right over the river. After a shower we headed out to eat. We were recommended to try the couscous joint but it was closed on Weds. We ended up at a little fish restaurant on the river and had a delicious meal of fresh trout, green beans, salad and potatoes. It was gourmet! The couple who ran it were great and as we had a limited budget they accomdated us. Desert was a lovely apple cake with icecream and fresh strawberries, the surprise of the house. We left happy and full. We did like the energy of the town and felt bouyed by it.
As we approached the hotel we met the American again who asked us to join him for a drink. I was tempted to say yes though I was tired. Barb,however, declined and after chatting with him a while I decided to also say no. He may have been gay. He said when he first met us that he'd seen us before but couldn't place where. The second time he said that he remembered that he had had a dream about me the night before and then turned to Barb saying "how could you forget a face like that?" Perhaps a pick up line? Anyway after telling us what he did...everything from currency trading to treasure hunting using technology from satellites in space...we bid him good night and goodbye, thinking about the interesting people one met on the Way!
Returning to the hotel we both slept our best night yet.
"Starting day three of the journey and then taking a welcomed break and enjoying the view of a mountain village."
"Road to Compostella. On this leg we saw the Rhone River and the Rhone River Valley."
"A weary pilgrim at rest. Mountain villages typically have beautiful flowers growing everywhere."
"This is Seysell, our destination on day three where we had a fabulous trout dinner."
"View of the Rhone River from the restaurant and Barb waiting for her dinner."
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Day One, May 28
Met with Barb last night at the youth hostel in Geneve. We left this morning around 8:30 and walked our way through Geneve using a very sketchy map and didnt get far before we needed help. A doorman at a hotel gave us a better map. We wandered through and again after a few more detours found our way to the end if the second map. Just when we were unsure where to go an old gentleman asked if we were pelerin or pilgrims? Then he told us where to pick up the Chemin. It was the first of many magic moments to come.
Finally we found our first of the little blue signs with the gold sea shell that would become very dear to us as we went along, sometimes like a puzzle pieces needing to be found. The weather was warm and it was a lovely morning. We found our first scallop shell in a little metal box with a notice of information for pilgrims. Inside was a stamp with ink and little colored paper slips so the pilgrims could have a stamp from the town on their Camino Passport. We ate lunch on a bench next to the box. I got my first stamp.
We crossed the Swiss border into France which was cool as it was only a little path crossing a stream which separated the two. There was an official sign announcing the border and also a string of very old Tibetan prayer flags that went across the stream. A perfect juxtaposition.
Shortly after that we had our first time getting really lost, as we missed one of the scallop markers and ended up in an enchanted forest and passed through a tunnel guarded by a troll who asked for our first child in order to pass. Because we knew that we wouldn't have one together it was an easy promise. Interestingly our intuition said we were on the wrong path but didn't know it until we said, "hasn't it been more than the half hour the sign said to the next town?" By now it was hotter and we were getting tired. Back we went and sure enough there were our markers with extra arrows to make sure the pilgrim didn't miss the path.
An hour later we were in the town only to find we had another hour to get to Bonmont, our destination. This was the challenging part because now we were tired, hot and thirsty and I had run out of water. Not only that, but the path was starting to go uphill to add to the physical aspect. We asked St. Jacque for help and just when we most needed it there was a sign for potable water and to please help ourselves. Wonderful, it tasted!
On up we went and the views became more and more spectacular. We could see Geneve way down below, both the city and the lake like a gem held in the setting of the surrounding mountains. We felt like Heidi and Hans of the Alps. We lost track of our shell markers a couple of times but we knew we were on the right path and they showed again, something that was so appreciated by this point as we were dragging. We joked about getting to Bonmont and the beds would be taken and all the food eaten. One last treck and we dragged our weary butts into town and easily found our Gite, the name of the little places for pilgrims to stay in France.
We met some other travelers there who told us it would be a full house as there was a group of ten expected, and were we part of it? No, but it seemed that all were welcomed and all would be accommodated. It was heaven to take off the pack and shoes, and then we were offered a shower and soon were clean and refreshed. I was glad I brought the clothes pins as they were needed to hang up towels and sweaty clothes. We met with Anna our host who seemed to take everything in stride and said we would all camp out together as one happy family with the group of ten upstairs and the rest in the room below with mattresses on the floor. Because we both were so tired we knew we could sleep anywhere and be fine. Barb helped Anna get the table set up saying people seem to always recognize her for her managerial skills. After helping move tables around for the meal I settled down to write the blog.
Dinner was served for 17! There were Germans, Swiss, French, and Americans- Barb and I. The main course was spaghetti with a veggie and meat sauce. We were all hungry and it was all eaten up with vigor. Salad came next followed by delicious local cheeses. Then the Germans brought out the guitar and we all sang English songs. It was an international family gathering.
"Barb on the morning of the first day in front of youth hostel in Geneva. Will ready to go! Leaving Geneva and finding our first scallop shell showing us the way. These would become very dear and important friends keeping us on track."
"At the Swiss-French Border there are old prayer flags. The surrounding countryside was beautiful."
"We arrived in Bonmont, our destination for the night and had a wonderful spaghetti dinner at the Gite with 17 other travelers."
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Last night was like an old fashioned sleep over. The ten Germans were upstairs in the sleeping area and the other seven of us were on mattresses that Anna brought in, after moving furniture to the side. Not knowing any differently I assumed that this would be the type of sleeping arrangements for the next two months. She did bring in pillows and blankets as well as a sheet for the mattress so I didnt need my own sleep sheet or bag. Despite being so tired I didn't fall asleep right away. When I did it wasn't for long as I was awakened by the sawing winds of snoring. This happened three times in the night and I despaired of getting a good sleep. However, when morning came I was rested and happy to get up.
By then three of our party had already departed so there were four of us to make the morning coffee and enjoy the bread, butter, jam and delicious muesli that Anna brought us. By the time we were finished the Germans upstairs were coming down for the breakfast. Given that there was only one toilet, which was upstairs, it all worked out amazingly well. I think this is part of the Spirit of the Way of St James.
By 8:15 we were packed and loaded up and on our way to our next destination Chaumont, 23 kilometers away. It was a beautiful cool morning, clear and bright. Soon however my pack, which had seemed comfortable the day before, was becoming very uncomfortable. My shoulders were in a lot of pain and I couldn't adjust it to feel better. I wondered if this would be my fate for the rest of the journey. I tried different things make it feel better, but nothing helped much. So I prayed for help, from the earth that I was walking on, from St James and from my Spirit Guides for I knew this was an issue that I couldn't solve in my own.
The walk was beautiful: hills, valleys and mountains in the distance, including Mont Blanc. Everything was so verdant and green with new life. Barb commented that they must have had a lot if rain this spring for it to be so lush. It was truly pastoral with cows and sheep, fields of wheat the heads of grain still green, accented by red poppies sprouting up among the grain. The road was most often dirt and stone leading us by pastures and farms. Sometimes we would be on a blacktop road but usually not for long and as always looking for our marker of the red and white lines and the scallop shell, always happy to find them and worried when we didn't.
Along the way we met up with two of the travelers from the night before. We passed them and later they passed us when we stopped for a break. Our breaks were delicious. Not only did we have food, our mid morning snack, and then lunch, but the feeling of being unburdened by the weight of our packs also was delicious. Food never tasted so good.
Another treat for the day were the raptors we saw soaring on the currents. Most looked like brown eagles, smaller than those in America, though there were also some hawks that were grey and white. I took it as a sign that my call for help was heard, and sure enough by the time we started after lunch my pack seemed much more comfortable. Of course I kept thinking about what I should have not brought and kept coming up with same answer, I really needed it all, at least until I knew more of what lay ahead.
We passed through very few villages and so we were sparing with our water. We both were happy with our camelback water holder as it gave us easy access to drinking when we needed it. While the morning was cool, with a lovely breeze, the afternoon was hotter and we were anticipating our earlier arrival at Chaumont to get out of the heat. In the afternoon we passed a young woman who was also walking and by her accent we thought she might be American. Later we met her again and found out she was a Swiss student who was in a two-month pilgrimage. We left her a at village church only to meet up with her again a little later on the road.
We got to talking and she said we were only 40 minutes from our destination. Barb asked her if she ever got lost on her first month of walking, she said no though it was harder to find the markers in France as they were difficult to find. This was an omen of what was to come. Barb was ahead of me and I was following her when Mikaela, the Swiss student, caught up with us and we got to talking. Then we met up with Barb and the three of us walked and talked together. All this time on a blacktop road, not thinking to look for markers as we assumed Mikaela knew where she was going.
We approached a little village and to our surprise it wasn't Chaumont. Mikaela asked an old villager where the town we wanted was and to her and our horror the man said it was 2 hours away over the mountain. Mikaela consulted her map and decided it wasn't worth the hike back and went into the next bigger town, Frangy. Barb, bless her heart, was undaunted and said we would backtrack and find our way. So we did, having found ourselves lost a second day adding another hour and a half to our walk just when we didn't think we could go any farther. The day before: the enchanted forest, today: the beautiful siren. Our lesson was not to ever get complacent in our vigilance for the markers even if we thought someone else knew the way!
Trudging back up a long hill we found the missed sign and for the next hour climbed up and down a rocky mountain path to get where we thought our village was only to find we had another 20 minutes of an uphill climb to the village. We made it at last getting there at 6:45, almost three hours behind schedule. However, Barb had reserved us a room, a B&B, luckily as the Gite was full, the Germans again. It was so good to stop. Our hosts showed us to a lovely room with an amazing view, fed us a delicious dinner, and we had a shower and a good nights rest.
"Day two markers designating the Way of St. James and the direction, a picture of a typical village and Barb on a bridge-see the scallop shell on the wall letting us know we are on the right path."
"Chaumont, our destination is an old castle town. Our host made us a gourmet meal in this kitchen. We thought we would be too tired to eat but finished it off with a lovely bottle of red wine! This is a view from our room at the B&B."
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May 16-26 The Netherlands
"My last morning view from my bedroom in the Netherlands. Was a great experience and I'm already being asked when I will return. Yeah! ."
"My four-legged friends who helped me in my journeys. Visit Kim's Equine website at Equijoy."
"Soccer is very big in Holland and Orange is the color of the National team. Orange is everywhere."
"The Netherlands is a great place to bicycle. I took several long scenic rides on this friendly bike. I bicycled along a lovely canal where barges are still used."
"I have been met in the Netherlands with kindness and support all around from my hosts Kim, baby Lars and Pim. Pim is standing by a miniature door in Eifel which is an old medieval town with funny crooked houses and roofs."
"I am staying at a little farm with 6 horses, 5 cats and 6 Jack Russell Terriers. The landscape is flat and rural farmland. Great for biking and there are lots of bicycles. Today I did my first reading in Europe. Enjoying the clients I am seeing"
"A Raven came to pay a visit, I felt sure I was on the right path."
"We went sightseeing this past weekend to Maastricht southeast of here on Saturday and to Eifel in nearby Germany on Sunday. Maastricht has interesting old cobblestone streets and open town squares with cafes. Everything is in miniature compared to the states. Small roads, houses, shops, etc."
"Here I am getting ready to take the first steps on the the road that lies ahead.....and who will I be on returning to this point of departure in three months time?"
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