First Stage of a Long Journey …

It is Sunday afternoon on the 24th of April and I have arrived in Le Puy, France.  The temperature outside is four degrees and as the wind sweeps off the mountains it rips through my windbreaker – so much for windbreakers!

Dear friends Jochen, Catalina and the Prince (Leonardo)! 😊

APRIL 25th – the beginning of a new adventure. Yesterday Jochen and family drove me to Le Puy en Velay. This morning I was up at 6:30 and heading to the cathedral at 6:50 for a service and receipt of my passport. I returned to the Gite de Capucins for breakfast and then calculated my trip. I called ahed and booked a room at a gite in Montbonnet. Then I called to have my humungous back pack picked up to be delivered to my destination for the day, Montbonnet. Surprise, surprise. Too late; it needs to be done the day before. There are only two options: wait until tomorrow to start my walk OR leave with both bags. I opted for the second and walked 12.5 km with a big sucker on my back and the smaller day bag on the front. Took me six hours and this is where my appreciation for my body really Kicked in. It was not easy; I would not choose to do it again but it got done. Tomorrow is another day and I will not be carrying two bags – thank God!

APRIL 26th I want to start with my appreciation: today I truly appreciated the baggage transfer service. It felt fabulous to walk with only my day pack which contained a small bag of first-aid items, a rain cape, a small water bottle (because there are so many fresh water creeks for refilling) and an orange and KitKat bar. I left Montbonnet at 8:15 in the morning and arrived at St. Privat d’Allier two hours later, covering a distance of 12.2 km over a steep climb and then easy walking … From Saint-Privat to Monistrol was much more challenging terrain not unlike the Grouse Grind. For the readers from Vancouver, Imagine going both up and down on the Grind. I congratulated myself with a glass of cold beer upon my arrival in Monistrol – this distance from Saint-Privat was only 7.5 km but took three hours to cover. To my delight and surprise two of the couples that had been at the Montbonnet gite with me were also at the gite in Monistrol. The walk took me through some beautiful country … The green pastures inhabited by herds of grazing cows was lovely – a certain sense of reassurance that the animals were content here, as they should be, rather than penned in as is the general practice in Canada?

Wednesday, 27th of April. The day started when I walked outdoors and filled my lungs with the most delicious cool, fresh air. So my appreciation during the whole day was so the fresh, clean air that I was breathing! I left Monistrol d’Allier at 8:30 in the morning. It was an arduous climb from the valley at 606 metres to a height of 1090 metres over a distance of 10 kilometres. I am trying to remember when I last had such a work-out. During my walk I ran into a woman, Sabine, from Valence but Austrian, born in Vienna. We had been at the same gite in Montbonnet. She was walking with a young gal from the Czech Republic, by the name of Carolin. The three of us walked together for a stretch … Sabine wanted to rest so Carolin and I continued for a stretch and then I arrived at my destination, La Clauze and she continued on. It was 15:00;the sun was shining brightly so I sat in the garden of my gite and contemplated how the day had gone.

Thursday, April 28h,day four and I have to say that I truly appreciate myself and I have made a real effort to stay focused on appreciating myself.  The day started at seven with breakfast and a departure at eight.  There were two other guests at the gite and the three of us walked 24 kilometres to the next stop.  We arrived at St. Alban au Ligmanole at four o’clock.  The weather has been particularly generous.  I have encountered a scattering of snow flurries,bitter winds but generally bright sunshine – both inside and out.💗

APRIL 29th Friday Left Saint Auban sur Limagnole at 8:30 and arrived in Lasbros at 15:45. We are at a lovely gite with a gorgeous view and beautiful bright sunshine. It was time to do some laundry and put it out on the line to dry. Angelo made a lovely dinner of spaghetti à l’aie with a bottle of red wine. We had purchased all the makings in Aumont-Auban where we sat under the sun and ate a “pick-nick” lunch before continuing on to our destination of Lasbros. Total distance today = 19.8 km and out😎

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Short & Sweet …

On the 5th of April I returned to Vancouver for a week to address some unavoidable matters before setting off on the long trek from Le Puy, where my only concern will be to enjoy the natural surrounding of my walk across France, over the Pyrenees into Spain and to the shores of the Atlantic in Finisterre.

First of all I met dear friends: Sharon, Shelley, Merilyn for a fun pub dinner.  Then it was off to Deep Cove for a week-end with my buddy Kucki Low, where I enjoyed meals on her expansive verdant deck with a view of the Mountains.

Deep Cove Dining Room

Deep Cove Dining Room

Back to the west-end of Vancouver to connect with Nora, a trip south to LeConner in Washington to see tulips that were barely coming into season but the drive, especially along Chuckanut with

Fields of beautiful blossoming tuplips

Fields of beautiful blossoming tuplips

Breakfast in Semiahmoo with Sharon

Breakfast in Semiahmoo with Sharon

Sharon Tillotson was super; lots of tennis with Margareta

Lots of tennis with Margareta

Lots of tennis with Margareta

and a quick visit to Gibsons

Gorgeous view from Ferry Landing at Langdale

Gorgeous view from Ferry Landing at Langdale

where Florian and Sharon are residing until the 6th of May.

Florian & Sharon in Gibsons

Florian & Sharon in Gibsons

A long walk along the sea wall and ferry to Granville Island for lunch, packed by Sharon and shared on a sunny bench was followed by a decadent dining experience at CinCin on Robson with Nora.  And then on Monday dear friends Susanne and Frans picked me up, took me to their home for a visit and lunch and drove me to the airport.

It was the perfect closure to my visit.  I flew from Vancouver to London and then on to Geneva.  I now sit at a table in Annecy typing this entry while I wait for Jochen, Catalina and Leonard to pick me up and drive me to Lyon!

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An Interlude in Lyon, France

I left Barcelona for Lyon on the 16th of February and remained there until the 22nd of March.  The original reason for my exit from Barcelona was to attend a wedding on the

Catalina, Jochen & Leonard

Catalina, Jochen & Leonard

17th and then I stayed on to house sit for a friend who was away on vacation.

Lyon is a city of such contrasts.  Not unlike Calgary, where I grew up, Lyon is situated in the foothills of the Alps,LYON-RHONE.RIVER LYON-SKYLINE between the rivers Rhône and Saône.  Therefore it was not surprising to find the weather as tempestuous as a prima donna.  In the course of forty-five minutes it went from bright sunny to grey cloudy and windy moving into snow flurries and then back to sunshine!  But it always remained one step ahead of me; as I was putting on my coat to go out for a stroll it changed to very unpleasant but no sooner had I taken off my outer garments only to see that the sun had come out and was shining brightly!

Recycling or re-using, as we know it in Canada, is virtually unknown.  Most drinking water is purchased in various sizes of plastic bottles and the bottles are simply discarded.  Yes, you read that correctly, discarded!  On the other hand, shared vehicles are very much in vogue.  As in Barcelona, there are rows bicycles

Shared Bicycles

Shared Bicycles

found every couple of blocks.  Shared vehicles are electric and there are the standard four passenger size

Row of Available Cars

Row of Available Cars

Being Charged

Being Charged

Two Man Electric Car

as well as what looks like a covered motor bike for two where the passengers sit one behind the other.  My original plan was to go from Lyon to Le Puy and commence my trek to Santiago de Compostela but the weather was still sufficiently cold to have made the walk over the Massif Central a challenge and I was persuaded to wait a little longer.  Therefore I returned to Barcelona, the city of gorgeous boulevards!

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BARCELONA

This truly is an amazing city.  With temperatures reaching twenty degrees Celsius the signs were all indicating a “go-ahead” to start the training for my arduous lengthy walk from Le Puy in France to the Atlantic coast through Santiago de Compostela.

My first 10 km walk took place yesterday and I was overwhelmed by the extensive green space that this city has.

Acres of Green Parkland

Acres of Green Parkland

There are acres and acres of parkland not unlike the expansive golf courses of Canada. For the Vancouver reader, imagine parkland from English Bay to Robson Street, with the first row of buildings along Alberni.  The beaches of Barcelona, delineate the Mediterranean from the metropolis which grew along the coast inward to the mountains.  This extensive strip of parkland is an extension of “play area” thus one is not restricted to the sandy strip lapped by water

Yesterday my walk took me along the beach.  The weather was so enticing to all that whoever could be outside, was!  There were sun-bathers and even bathers as well as surfers, divers and many playing what I had thought was volleyball until I stopped to watch.

Football on the Beach

Football on the Beach

There is a net and two aside.  A soccer ball is hit back and forth in the same manner as in soccer;that is, by the use of head, shoulders, knees, feet but NO HANDS.  When the ball does not get across the net then it is a point for the other team.  “The serve” is a kick as in soccer.  I have not seen this played on the beaches of Vancouver, where it appears that volleyball is the game or choice, but I must confess that I have never taken the time to simply stand, watch and enjoy the game being played.

Graffiti is a word that I have always associated with vandalism and a violation of one’s sense of propriety.

Graffiti

Graffiti

In Barcelona this urban means of expression is a skilled form of art that decorates many stark walls and exposed sides of derelict buildings,covering them in garments that are regularly replaced. It is like a gallery that moves in time rather than distance so an admirer’s stroll needs to maintain a rigorous schedule in order not to miss a beat or a “scene” as it were.

GRAFFITI AT ITS BEST

GRAFFITI AT ITS BEST

The passerby is lured by the bright, colourful images to stop, admire and perhaps preserve with a quick snap of the mobile photo app.

Art in the Making

Art in the Making

FINISHED

FINISHED

Boulevards, or Ramblas as they are called in Barcelona,form an efficient, systematic and interlocking

BOULEVARD IN MY 'HOOD

BOULEVARD IN MY ‘HOOD

network of transportation not only for those using motorized means but pedestrians, roller bladders, skate boarders and more.  The central part, the boulevard, is treed and often includes sculptures of local artists, with water fountains, play areas for children, separate areas for dogs as well as two lanes for cyclists.

BOULEVARD IN INDUSTRIAL AREA

BOULEVARD IN INDUSTRIAL AREA

IMG_1748It divides the motorized traffic, going in opposite directions from those in the centre who are going from point to point in a less frenzied style.  One can travel from one end of the city to the other never leaving a boulevard.  For runners, who must use the city, this is an ideal venue as the flow of motorized traffic does not interfere with their concentration on their paces.

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And Back in Barcelona

This truly is an amazing city.  With temperatures reaching twenty degrees Celsius the signs were all indicating a “go-ahead” to start the training for my arduous lengthy walk from Le Puy in France to the Atlantic coast through Santiago de Compostela.

My first 10 km walk took place yesterday and I was overwhelmed by the extensive green space that this city has.  There are acres and acres of greenland not unlike the expansive golf courses of Canada.

Yesterday my walk took me along the beach.  The weather was so enticing to all that whoever could be outside, was!  There were sun-bathers and even bathers as well as surfers, divers and many playing what I had thought was volleyball until I stopped to watch.  Football on BeachThere is a net and two aside.  A soccer ball is hit back and forth in the same manner as in soccer;  that is, by the use of head, shoulders, knees, feet but NO HANDS.  When the ball does not get across the net then it is a point for the other team.  “The serve” is a kick as in soccer.  I have not seen this played on the beaches of Vancouver but I must confess that I have never taken the time to simply stand, watch and enjoy the game being played.

Today is another gorgeous day so I am heading out and hope to again do at least the 10 km from yesterday or better my score.

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NEXT WHISTLE STOP …

Whistle is not quite accurate as I stayed six nights in Česky Krumlov having travelled by train all day with an early morning departure and arrival at my destination after four in the afternoon.

4 BLOGČesky Krumlov is the best preserved medieval European city that I have visited to date.  The church stands on a high point and was build in 1407.  Parts of the castle date back to the 12th Century and the burghers homes are flawlessly preserved opening on to cobbled streets. Many of the homes had beginnings in the Gothic style and then added a floor in Renaissance style to be topped by Baroque!Burgher Home
Enchanting is not sufficient to describe the city and its surrounding hills.  I could have stayed here with ne’er a desire to depart which is actually what happened to many residents who were from foreign lands but now well settled into this community.  I am definitely coming back here for a longer visit.  But now a convenient shuttle service has delivered me to the Vienna airport for my flight back to Barcelona.

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Anti-Climax ???

I say anti-climax because the previous week had been so very full of entertainment, luxurious pampering and revelry that I could not imagine more and yet …  There is a shortage of adjectives to describe the events and experiences that filled the next fourteen days of my life.  Prague,such a majestic city, gently nudged me into 2016.  Upon my arrival the city was green/grey with not a sign of winter white.  While meandering around the Prague Cathedral Stare MestoPrague IMG_1613Prague Castle and Cathedral on the second day of my five day visit, it started to snow and snow quite heavily.  Now it really did feel like January … by the time that I arrived at my hotel the whole landscape had changed

Prague

Prague

… muffled sounds and muted tones with the street lamps casting a golden hue on everything that they covered.  It has been twenty years since my last visit to Prague but this scene brought back all the magic for my last visit had also been in winter.

After five days of magic I boarded a train for the distant South-East corner of Hungary, a totally different world.  My destination was a village touching the Romanian and Serbian borders and the home of a cousin.  With no internet I spent the next eight days in bliss reminiscing about all that I had experienced over the past month and fortifying myself for the next chapter in my adventure.

On the 18th of January I returned to the Czech Republic, to the the ecclesiastical metropolis and historical capital city of Moravia, Olomouc! Olomouc Panorama

Once again it was a concert conducted by Miran Vaupotic that brought me here.  The city was a very pleasant surprise because I was familiar with Brno which is about a half hour south of here and it is certainly not high on my list of destinations.  Olomouc is regal, full of impressive Baroque buildings and so many churches that I lost count of all the steeples.

The concert was brilliant and you may hear one of the solo performances that the violinist, Angélica Olivo played by visiting this Youtube link Angélica Olivo.  The three of us, Miran Angélica and I, shared laughs, delicious Italian pizza and refreshing Czech beer over a three day period and then we each went our separate ways.   In Olomouc Angélica & Csilla Miran Vaupotic

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Stunning Dresden and more …

When I got off the packed train from Bratislava I was in majestic Dresden, one of the most beautiful cities, if not THE most beautiful, in Europe.  Jochen and I walked around the core of the city and each building was more brilliantly illuminated than the one beside it.

Lights, Lights and More Lights!

Lights, Lights and More Lights!

The focal point of the square

The focal point of the square

The garlands of white lights created a mood of magic.  I noticed that in Europe the decorations for Christmas are all in white … coloured lights are not used, and the result is much more effective, at least for me. There was no snow on the ground and it almost felt like spring, yet the white lights created a sense of snowy winter.

From Dresden we drove eastward to an area very close to the Czech border and I settled into my temporary home: the Gasthaus Wolfbrunn in Hartenstein, Germany.

View from my Bedroom Window

View from my Bedroom Window

When I woke up in the morning and looked out of my window this is the view that welcomed me into a new day.  After two days of being pampered in the Hartenstein/Schneberg area we headed over the pass that was once the highest point in East Germany and crossed into the Czech Republic.  Teplice was our destination where the New Year was to be welcomed by us:  Jochen, Catalina, Leonardo. Miran and me.

Christmas twinkling lights in Teplice

Christmas twinkling lights in Teplice

And now it started to snow, adding to the already existing brilliance of all the sparkling little white lights that decorated the tree and square outside of my hotel room.

The first of January was celebrated with a beautiful afternoon concert that was conducted by friend Miran, from Croatia.  On the second of January a train transported me from Teplice to Prague for yet another “New Year” concert at the State Opera, locally called the Rudolfinum Dvorak Hall. And now I am sitting in my hotel room recalling the fabulous past few days; days full of good food, drink but above all amazing warm camaraderie … a perfect way to usher in a year that has already started off so very beautifully!  WELCOME 2016!!!

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Next …

It is time to bring this missive up to date. I have been away from the keyboard for too long but with good reason, as I have been out and about re-cnnecting with people and places … I left Barcelona on the 15th and flew to Vienna. Then a quick bus ride had me arrive in Bratislava in one hour and friend Majka picked me up and we were comfortably in Devinska, a bedroom suburb, in no time. It was fabulous to reconnect with dear friends and I chilled out for a couple of days spending the week-end in the country.

In Bratislava's Old town Square

In Bratislava’s Old town Square

Lovely courtyard of Gajary country retreat

Lovely courtyard of Gajary country retreat

There was plenty of time to make a couple of visits to the Christmas market and then on the 21st Peter drove me to Senec, 26 kilometers east of Bratislava, the ancestral home of my father’s family.

IMG_1538 IMG_1540The next couple of days were spent cooking, baking and decorating the house: a house that I remember from the days when I visited my grandmother there. Too much good food and drink has expanded my girth significantly. I am not quite certain how I will squeeze myself into my New Year’s Eve festive garments.

On Sunday the 27th I made a quick trip by bus to the Vienna airport to meet with a young man that was once my employee when I had a business in Budapest. He now resides in Toronto and was heading back to Canada after having spent the Christmas holidays with parents in Hungary.

I am presently sitting on a train heading for Prague. It is packed … I have never sat in a six seat compartment with five other people. It has been rather misty and foggy since my arrival in Slovakia so I am hoping for some sunshine in Germany and then the Czech Republic for the New Year’s festivities.

 

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A Day Trip to Tarragona – a UNESCO World Heritage City

On Thursday I decided to refresh my memory of a a charming city with more concentrated Roman ruins than any other city that I have visited outside of Rome.

Tarraconensis

Tarraconensis

The history of Tarragona dates back many centuries.  The imposing ramparts built of enormous Cyclopean blocks of stone indicate that it was founded by peoples from the eastern Mediterranean early in the first millennium BC.  Scipios built Tarragona’s walls in the 3rd Century BC at a time when the Romans had control of the larger part of the peninsula and Tarraconensis grew into a major city and overseas capital.  Although it could never equal Rome, it enjoyed many of the same privileges as the imperial capital and Augustus, Galba and Hadrian did not disdain to live in it.

Tarragona's Roman Theatre

Tarragona’s Roman Theatre

The city had a coliseum, amphitheater, aqueduct, and circus. Today it is one of the Spanish cities with the most Roman remains and is the capital of the province with its name.  The gardened seafront promenade skirts the cliffside and surrounds the old city and the Palace of Augustus.

In 2000, the city of Tarragona was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its wealth of archaeological remains dating back to Roman times as well as many artifacts from the Early Middle Ages..

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