2012 Walking the Way

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.” 

2012 Walking the Way

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. 

2012 Walking the Way

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. 

Day Eighteen Photos 

“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.” 

2012 Walking the Way

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. 

Barb and Will Photos 

“The happy travelers.” 

2012 Walking the Way

The Way of Saint James, Day Sixteen

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. 

Day Sixteen Photos 

“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.” 

2012 Walking the Way

The Way of Saint James, Day Fifteen

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. 

Day Fifteen Photos 

“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.” 

2012 Walking the Way

The Way of Saint James, Day Fourteen

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. 

Day Fourteen Photos 

“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.” 

2012 Walking the Way

The Way of Saint James, Day Thirteen

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. 

Day Thirteen Photos 

“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. “ 

2012 Walking the Way

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.” 

Day Twelve Photos 

“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. “ 

2012 Walking the Way

The Way of Saint James, Day Eleven

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. 

Day Eleven Photos 

“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.”